What Is Delayed Puberty?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2018
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In pediatrics, when a child does not go through the physical changes of puberty at a developmentally appropriate age, this is usually referred to as delayed puberty. While this can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem, it will normally resolve itself on its own. Sometimes, however, and underlying medical problem may need to be treated. In a handful of cases, a doctor might prescribe oral hormone supplements.

Along with growing taller, both boys and girls will go through several physical changes during puberty. Boys' shoulders will get wider and they will often become much more muscular. Their sex organs will become larger, and their voices will deepen. Puberty is also the time that most boys will start growing facial hair, along with pubic hair.

Girls will also start growing pubic hair during puberty. Their hips will also get wider, and they will begin to develop breasts. During puberty is also when a girl gets her menarche, or first period.

Generally speaking, girls will go through puberty a little earlier than boys. Some girls will begin to enter into puberty before their seventh birthday. Puberty this early is rare, however, and is sometimes referred to as precocious puberty, or early the early onset of puberty. If the physical changes associated with puberty have not started by the age of 14 for girls and 15 for boys, this can indicate delayed puberty.


Delayed puberty can be caused by a few things. In most cases, though, there is usually no cause at all, and puberty will usually just start a little later than it does for a child's peers. Research does suggest that this may be genetic, and many members of the same family may all deal with delayed puberty.

Some chronic illnesses may also contribute to delayed puberty. Diabetes and kidney disease are two chronic illnesses that can possibly delay puberty. Children without enough body fat may also enter into puberty at a later age. This can include those who are malnourished or very active.

Chromosome disorders can also cause delayed puberty. Turner syndrome in females one example of this. Females born with this condition usually have a non-existent or atypical female chromosome. In males, delayed puberty may be caused by something known as Klinefelter syndrome, in which boys will have an extra X, or female, chromosome.

Male and female hormones cause most of the physical changes associated with puberty. Problems with the glands that produce these hormones can also result in delayed puberty. Sometimes, a child may need to see a pediatric endocrinologist if this occurs. An doctor who specializes in endocrinology may prescribe hormones that can bring on the start of puberty. After this has begun, a child's body should then begin producing the hormones naturally.



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