Delayed puberty (late puberty) is when the body's timing for sexual maturity is later than usual. The concern may be that puberty hasn’t started or that it stalled after it started.
For many teens, puberty just happens later. There’s no medical problem. Later puberty is normal in many families. Signs that the delay may be due to a disease include an abrupt change in growth or arrested development, in which puberty starts then stalls. Headaches, vision problems and other neurological symptoms might mean there’s a problem in the central nervous system. In case a medical condition is causing the delay, a teen who is late in experiencing puberty should see a doctor.
Negative social and psychological effects are another reason families seek medical help. Among peers, the teen may feel pressure for not developing like others. The teen may also be noticeably shorter than others. The teen may need help coping with and managing social problems and concerns.
For some older teens, the doctor may advise “jump starting” puberty with a few months of hormone therapy. More often, the teen needs solid reassurance that the body is getting ready to mature sexually.
A pediatric endocrinologist is an excellent resource to families concerned about a late puberty. Your pediatrician may refer you if there are any concerns about the teen’s development or well-being. Talk to your pediatrician if you have a concern.
Puberty happens over several years. The age at which it starts and ends varies widely.