Girls who start their periods before turning 14 are 51% more likely to have underage sex (and get pregnant and married younger)

  • Over half of girls who had periods before 14 have sex before the age of 16
  • This compares to just 4% of those who menstruated at 16 or over, study reveals
  • Few girls engage in intercourse before they began menstruation, it was found
  • For each year menstruation was delayed, age at marriage rose by 9 months
  • ‘Significant’ link found between age of first period and age of first pregnancy
  • Girls menstruating before 14 were up to 31% more likely to get herpes

The earlier a girl gets her first period, the younger she will have her first sexual experience, get pregnant and marry.

Over half of girls (55 percent) who had periods before the age of 14 – when most girls have hit puberty – had sex before the age of 16, a study reveals.

This compares to just 4 percent of those who menstruated at 16 or over – considered late for the start of puberty.

Eleven is the average age for girls to start their periods, but experts have previously suggested puberty is starting younger, and that the trend is linked to obesity.

Another study suggested that for each year menstruation was delayed, the age when a girl got married increased by nine months, according to researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

Menstruating at an earlier age is also linked to having an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), research suggests.

‘Menstruation marks the beginning of a girl’s reproductive life and is an important indicator of girls’ physical, nutritional, and reproductive health, yet it is often overlooked in public health,’ said senior study author Dr Marni Sommer, who is associate professor at the school.

The researchers used data from peer-reviewed studies and health databases to assess the link between the age of first menstruation and patterns of sexual and reproductive health in girls in lower-income regions of the world.

Their findings were ‘similar to what has been observed in high-income countries such as the US’, they note.