Dear Doctor Diana:
I was just at the ob-gyn and when she asked when my last period was, I had no idea. Should I have been embarrassed? I’m not trying to have a baby and I’m not sexually active. Is this something I need to pay attention to?
Dr. Diana: This is a great question, and one with a simple answer: YES!
Let’s take a look at why. First of all, you should never be embarrassed to be honest with your doctor. That’s why you’re there, and why she, or he is there. The more honest you are, the more your health provider will be able to provide you with the best care possible.
When it comes to your period, every woman should stay aware.
How closely do you pay attention to your period? Keeping a calendar of the whens and the whats is a great idea for any number of reasons: being responsible about your sex life, planning for a baby, and just generally monitoring your health. Plus, it will make you sound on the ball if you can name that date when your ob-gyn asks at your next visit.
Once you’ve got a few months of data, you’ll be able to gauge the following…
- 21 Days: Menstrual cycles shorter than 21 days are abnormal
- 35 Days: Menstrual cycles longer than 35 days are abnormal
- 3 Months: Any woman who goes 3 months without having a period can be at risk for endometrial hyperplasia (excessive growth) and possibly even uterine cancer if she is not on some form of progesterone supplementation (which can be found in birth control pills or prescribed separately by your doctor).
- 6 Months: A lack of a period for 3-6 months needs to be evaluated.
Teens who haven’t yet started menstruating also have a responsibility to their health. Keep in mind that:
- 13 is the age by which most girls in the US have started getting boobs
- 15 is the age by which most girls get their periods
- If you’ve had boobs for 3 years and you haven’t started your period, you should call your doctor
- During the first year after the initial period, most women will continue to menstruate every 21-45 days. If you are out of this range then this should be investigated.
Because a regular and healthy menstrual cycle is so intimately tied to these very important issues it is important to keep track of certain aspects of your menstrual cycle and sexual development. If these things are different from what is considered normal then you should bring it up with your gynecologist.
Do you have a question for Dr. Diana? Tell us in the comments below.
Diana E. Chavkin, MD, FACOG is an Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist who practices at Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine in Brooklyn