Puberty Blockers

Why do some youth decide to take puberty blockers?

The changes to your body that happen during puberty can be distressing if they are not in line with your gender. Puberty blockers can help relieve this distress. Delaying puberty gives you more time to explore your gender identity, before changes happen to your body that can’t be reversed.

What are the criteria for being prescribed puberty blockers?

If you are under age 18, the criteria for puberty blocker prescription are:

  1. A long-lasting and intense pattern of gender non-conformity or gender dysphoria
  2. Gender dysphoria emerged or worsened with the onset of puberty
  3. Any coexisting psychological, medical, or social problems are stable enough to start treatment
  4. The adolescent has given informed consent, and the parents/guardians have given consent and are involved in supporting the adolescent throughout the treatment process.

Who monitors puberty blockers and hormone therapy for youth?

Usually an endocrinologist (hormone specialist) monitors puberty blocker and hormone therapy for youth, due to changing needs during adolescence. However the endocrinologist can work with your primary care provider for routine monitoring.

What kind of puberty blocking medication is used in BC?

The puberty blocker used most often in BC is called Lupron Depot. It is given through a monthly injection in the thigh.

Who pays for hormone therapy?

Lupron Depot is quite expensive. It costs around $400 per month. It is covered by BC PharmaCare. Some families have the cost covered by BC’s PharmaCare Plan G. Extended health care plans may also cover this medication.

What are the effects of puberty blockers?

If you were assigned male at birth, puberty blockers will stop or limit:

  • Growth of facial and body hair
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Broadening of the shoulders
  • Growth of Adam’s apple
  • Growth of testes*testes* (with an asterisk) is used to acknowledge the many different words that are used for this body part. and  penis*penis* (with an asterisk) is used to acknowledge the many different words that are used for this body part: penis, strapless, shenis, etc.

If you were assigned female at birth, puberty blockers will stop or limit:

  • Breast*breast* (with an asterisk) is used to acknowledge the many different words that are used for this body part. development
  • Broadening of the hips
  • Monthly bleeding

In both cases, puberty blockers will temporarily stop or limit:

  • Growth in height
  • Development of sex drive
  • Impulsive, rebellious, irritable and/or risk-taking behaviour
  • Accumulation of calcium in the bones
  • Fertility

The effects of puberty blockers are fully reversible. If you decide to stop taking them, your body will go through puberty just the way it would have if you hadn’t take puberty blockers at all.

What are the risks from taking puberty blockers?

Puberty blockers are considered to be very safe overall.

We are not sure if puberty blockers have negative side effects on bone development and height. Research done so far shows that the effects are minimal. However, we won’t know the long-term effects until the first people to take puberty-blockers get older.

If you have a penis* and think you might want to have surgery to create a vagina as an adult (vaginoplasty), there is a risk you should know about. Starting puberty blockers early in puberty may mean that you won’t be able to have the vaginoplasty surgery that is most commonly used in Canada. There are alternative techniques available, such as the use of a skin graft or colon tissue. Talk with your primary care provider or endocrinologist for more information.

What are the risks of withholding puberty blockers from youth?

If health care providers refuse to provide puberty blockers, it can cause additional distress, and may lead to anxiety and depression. Withholding puberty blockers and hormone therapy is not a neutral option and can result in increased risk of mental health issues.

Where can I learn more about hormone therapy for youth?

Check out the feminizing and masculinizing hormone pages. They are for youth, too.