"You're a woman, now." That sentence probably wouldn't make much sense to a young girl — sometimes as young as 7 years old — who has begun to menstruate. A new study suggests that genes, in combination with other factors, determine when a girl will reach the moment commonly referred to as the first sign of womanhood.
According to the study, genes that direct the onset of menstruation sit next to DNA controlling height and weight. This may explain why shorter and heavier girls get their periods at a younger age. In addition to the newly discovered genes, we know that factors like nutrition and exercise influence the onset of puberty.
Scientists hope that finding out what causes early menstruation will eventually improve women's health. The age of first menstruation has been dropping in the West (some girls get their first periods at the age of seven), especially among girls with higher BMIs. This is of concern to the health community, because early menstruation is associated with depression, aggression, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and a higher risk of disease as an adult.
How old were you when you got your first period? Were you thrilled, traumatized or just expecting it?