The girl who became a mother at the age of five years old is Lina Medina and this article is not about her but the condition which caused it. Yes, here we are about to discuss precocious puberty. In the year 1939, Lina Medina’s family discovered something very unusual in her body. Lina’s stomach was protruding and her family got way too worried and thought it was a tumor. After a medical checkup, doctors found that the girl was seven months pregnant. By the time she turned five years and seven months old, she was the mother of a healthy baby boy. This is how Lina Medina became the youngest mother in the world, and this is her story.
Lina’s case stunned the entire medical fraternity and the news spread like a wildfire. The doctors and pediatricians were quite surprised with this case as it was a speculated matter since then. Let us find out, how this condition happened to Lina.
How Lina Medina became the Youngest Mother in the World?
The condition which caused Lina Medina to become worlds youngest mother is called Precocious Puberty. The term refers to early or abnormal puberty that happens due to early development of sexual organs. In this case, girls develop sexual characteristics before the age of eight. While for male children it is before the age of nine.
Children who have this condition face a rapid growth. Although this rapid growth finishes off before they reach the full potential of genetic development. So, this is how Lina became the mother of a baby boy when she was only five.
Causes of Precocious Puberty
There are several reasons which can lead to precocious puberty. Some of the common reasons are growth of ovaries at an early stage, development of adrenalin glands, brain and pituitary gland. In some cases, genetic disorder, family medical history, abnormality of the central nervous system causes this. The rare genetic condition called catalyst can also be the reason behind this. There are cases where there were no reasons for such sudden growth of sexual characteristics. So, medical science doesn’t have an answer to why it happens.
To understand precocious puberty, it is very important to know how puberty begins in a person. The process of puberty is commenced by the brain and it starts with GnRH or Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone production. When this hormone reaches the pituitary gland, it helps to produce estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
The testosterone produces in the testicles while the estrogen in the ovaries. These hormones are the fuel of development of sexual characteristics in men and women. Early development of these hormones in Lina Medina made her become the youngest mother in the world. But the phenomenon is pretty unnatural and rare. This early beginning also has two different approaches which are, central precocious puberty and peripheral precocious puberty.
1. Gonadotropin – Dependent Precocious Puberty
The condition of Central precocious puberty is the alternative name of gonadotropin-dependent precocious puberty. The reason behind the growth of sexual characteristics in central precocious puberty is hard to detect and often goes unanswered. The process of puberty commences very soon in this type of precocious puberty. On the contrary to this, the process is all the same as puberty occurring in a normal person.
Almost all of the cases registered with gonadotropin-dependent precocious puberty have no reason for early development of sexual characteristics. The probable reasons are:
- Hypothyroidism – Lack of production of thyroid hormone in the thyroid glands
- Brain or Spine Injury
- Hydrocephalus – Excess fluid buildup in brain can lead to precocious puberty
- Hamartoma – Development of non-cancerous tumor can cause this condition
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – Abnormal hormone production from the adrenalin glands due to some genetic disorder
- Radiation to spine or brain
- Tumor – Any tumor in brain, spinal cord or anywhere near the central nervous system can cause this condition
- McCune-Albright Syndrome – It is a genetic condition which causes hormonal problems, affects skin tone and bones health
It is quite possible that the worlds youngest mother can be a patient of gonadotropin-dependent precocious puberty. Girls have more chances to have this condition than boys. Premature secretion of gonadotropins is the root cause of this condition. Some research conducted on this condition has revealed that maturing of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis at a premature stage can cause this condition in girls.
2. Gonadotropin-Independent Precocious Puberty
Under this kind of precocious puberty, the condition is not caused by the early release of gonadotropin hormones. It is generally caused due to the release of testosterone and estrogen in the body at an early stage. This type of precocious puberty is also called peripheral precocious puberty or gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty. In this case, there is no interference of the gonadotropin hormone in the brain. This condition is generally caused when there are issues with the adrenal gland, pituitary gland, testicles, and ovaries. There are some causes that can trigger peripheral precocious puberty.
- McCune-Albright Syndrome – As mentioned earlier, this rare genetic condition can cause precocious puberty to your child
- Tumor – If there is a tumor in the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands, this condition may develop in your child
- Injecting Testosterone or Estrogen through external sources
- Ovarian Cysts in girls
- Tumor in Leydig Cell – These are the sperm-producing cells. A tumor in these cells can trigger the phenomena
- Gonadotropin-Independent Familial Sexual Precocity – If your son suffers from this genetic defect then his body can produce testosterone from the age of 1 to 4. This condition is called peripheral precocious puberty.
- Ovarian Tumor – A tumor in the ovary can cause peripheral precocious puberty in girls
Risk factors of Precocious Puberty
There are a couple of risk factors that leads to precocious puberty in children. It is quite possible that another child right now is suffering from this condition and might become the next youngest mother in the world. The risk factors of this condition are:
- It is very common for girls to develop precocious puberty.
- The number of cases of precocious puberty is more among the African-American children of the US.
- If your child is suffering from obesity from a very young age, he or she has a high risk of developing precocious puberty.
- Any substance which contains estrogen and testosterone, it comes in contact with your child, then he or she might develop precocious puberty. These substances can be adult medication, ointment, supplements, etc.
- There are some medical conditions that can trigger the development of sexual characteristics in your child.
- If your child is receiving radiation therapy or has received it then he or she might develop precocious puberty. Patients of leukemia need radiation treatment. Also, people who have tumors anywhere near the central nervous system need it.
Complications in Precocious Puberty
There are selectively a few possible complications that your child may suffer. These are generally physical complications. One major complication is having a short height. As a precocious puberty patient, your child may experience rapid growth at a very young age, but the growth stops earlier than others. For instance, your child might grow taller than his friends of the same age when he is 4 to 6 years old. But when he reaches 18, he might be short compared to other men. The rapid growth starts early and ends early as well.
In comparison to the above, a child may experience emotional and social problems due to precocious puberty. This condition makes children more self-conscious of their bodies than others. The reason behind it is the early growth or development of sexual characteristics. This, in turn, affects the self-confidence and self-esteem of your child. Further, it can lead to severe depression or push them towards substance abuse.
Symptoms of Precocious Puberty
There is a huge list of symptoms that a child experiences during precocious puberty. These symptoms weren’t noticeable when Lina Medina became the youngest mother in the world. Doctors found the symptoms when more such cases came through. Here is a list of the most common and uncommon symptoms of precocious puberty:
- Rapid physical growth
- Underarm and pubic hair in both boys and girls
- Facial hair in boys and girls as well
- Body odor like adults
- Growth of breasts at a young age
- First menstrual cycle by the age of 4 to 8 years in girls
- Developing heavy voice at a young age in boys
- Ovulation in girls
- Experiencing erection spontaneously
- Enlargement of testicles and penis
- Sperm production in boys
- Mood swings depending on the hormonal changes in the body
- Experiencing aggression like adults
- Physical development like height, muscle growth, etc. more than others of same age group
Diagnosis of Precocious Puberty
The diagnosis of precocious puberty isn’t based on the symptoms only. It depends on the complete physical examination and previous medical history of your child. Apart from these, there are some other measures that can diagnose precocious puberty. These measures are:
- Examining the amount of LH Gonadotropins and FHS Gonadotropins, thyroid hormone, testosterone and estrogen present in your child’s body.
- X-Ray test conducted on your child for diagnosing organs, internal tissues, and bones. With the help of an electromagnetic energy beam, this is possible. The bone test helps determine the bone age of your child.
- GnRH stimulation test or gonadotropin-releasing hormone stimulation test helps determine the type of precocious puberty. Generally, there are only two types of precocious puberty, one is gonadotropin-dependent and the other is gonadotropin-independent.
- Ultrasound or sonography helps in checking the status of adrenal glands and the gonads. Testes and ovaries are called gonads. High-frequency sound waves are used to view an image of organs, blood vessels, and tissues on the computer.
- MRI scan or magnetic resonance imaging is a procedure used for diagnosing organ structures in the body. This process is conducted with the help of radio frequencies, large magnets, and a computer system.
Treatment for Precocious Puberty
The treatment of precocious puberty is solely in the hands of the doctor who is treating your child. It is the doctor who will determine a particular treatment based on:
- Your child’s medical history, age and health status
- The course of the condition and your expectations
- Your preferences and opinion as a parent
- The level of tolerance of your child towards certain treatment procedure, medication and therapies
- The extent of precocious puberty condition
Considering these factors is very important for the treatment procedure. The ultimate goal of all the treatment and therapy is to stop the rapid growth and if possible then reverse the phenomena. This, in turn, will allow your child to lead a normal life like his or her peers. The treatment procedure will vary if the child is suffering from central precocious puberty or peripheral precocious puberty. If such medical research was done back in time, Lina Medina might not have been the youngest mother in the world.
Precocious Puberty and the Emotional Effect on your Child
The child who is suffering from this condition only knows what happens within their mind. It is your duty as a parent to provide support and help them cope up. If things back in 1939 would have been as they are now, Lina’s family might have reacted pretty normally. On the contrary, they could’ve helped her why she experienced the symptoms. Maybe this would have stopped her from being the youngest mother in the world. Besides, we don’t know how society treated her after this incident as none of us were her peers.
Lina Medina was the youngest mother in the world but there are more girls like her. There are lots of children who are suffering from this condition and you might be unaware of it as parents. You must keep a check on your child and if you notice anything suspicious then contact the doctor.
From this article, we realize that our bodies can go through unnatural changes. We often don’t know to deal with changes and sometimes don’t understand. It is important to keep a regular check so that we can understand the symptoms. If there is anything unnatural happening to your body, make sure you get health advice immediately.