Earlier age at menarche in girls with rapid early life growth: cohort and within sibling analyses

Ann Epidemiol. 2017 Mar;27(3):187-193.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2017.01.004. Epub 2017 Jan 19.


Purpose: The purpose of the article was to examine the association of early life growth with age at menarche.

Methods: Using data from a prospective birth cohort (n = 1134 women, 290 sibling sets), we assessed the association between postnatal growth at 4 months, 1 year, and 4 years and age at menarche, using generalized estimating equations and generalized linear random effects models.

Results: Overall, 18% of the cohort experienced early menarche (<12 years). After accounting for postnatal growth in length, faster postnatal change in weight (per 10-percentile increase) in all three periods was associated with an increase (range 9%-20%) in the likelihood of having an early menarche. In adjusted linear models, faster weight gains in infancy and childhood were associated with an average age at menarche that was 1.1-1.3 months earlier compared with stable growth. The overall results were consistent for percentile and conditional growth models. Girls who experienced rapid growth (defined as increasing across two major Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth percentiles) in early infancy had an average age at menarche that was 4.6 months earlier than girls whose growth was stable.

Conclusions: Faster postnatal weight gains in infancy and early childhood before the age of 4 years are associated with earlier age at menarche.

Keywords: Birthweight; Childhood growth; Infant growth; Lifecourse epidemiology; Maternal; Menarche; Prenatal; Puberty.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent / physiology*
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Menarche / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Siblings*
  • United States