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Why do doctors always ask about your last period? Experts explain.


An unwrapped tampon in a woman's hand.
Your period can reveal a lot about your health. (Getty Pictures)

last period

No matter what brings a woman to the doctor’s office, she can expect a no-nonsense question: “When was the first day of your last period?”

Dr. Alla Vash-Margita, chief of pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Yale Medicine, told Yahoo Life that while one of the reasons for the question is to assess whether a woman might be pregnant, the answer can tell. last period much more about a woman’s health.

“Gynecologists pay particular attention to menstruation in general,” she explains. “In fact, it has been proposed that menstruation is considered a vital sign in people with a uterus. Regular menstruation…is just as important as blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature, and heart rate.

Because periods can reveal so much about a woman’s health, says Vash-Margita, all doctors — not just gynecologists — should pay attention to women’s periods.

Vash-Margita says regular periods are “a sign of a healthy body.” She explains that periods that stop or are more than 45 days apart can be a symptom of “disease of the thyroid gland, eating disorders, strenuous exercise, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and some other conditions” apart from pregnancy.

In addition to tracking the day your period starts, Dr. Myda Luu, Chief of Obstetrics Specialty at Kaiser Permanente, recommends people who are menstruating track “cycle length, frequency, and rate,” as well as ” associated symptoms such as cramps, pain during intercourse, bleeding between periods, mood changes during the menstrual cycle and migraines. This is because these symptoms can be helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of several different health issues. last period

Without tracking, women may miss changes that are important to their overall health, especially if those changes are subtle or happen gradually.

Even if a woman has no immediate health problems and is not afraid of getting pregnant, watch periods can help establish a baseline that can be useful later. Symptoms that indicate a problem for one woman may be completely normal for another, depending on her medical history.

Luu explains that “knowing the first day of your last menstrual period usually comes down to tracking your menstrual cycles and understanding what is normal for you. you. She adds that follow-up periods and associated symptoms may show “significant changes that may warrant further investigation.”

She advises anyone who is menstruating to tell their doctor if their cycles are longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days, bleeding for more than seven days, soaking one or more tampons or pads in less than two hours they don’t. they have had their period for more than three months, they have severe pain at any point in their cycle, or they bleed between periods, after sex, or after menopause.

However, if a woman notices changes in her cycle, experts say there is no need to panic. Dr. Dan Nayot, obstetrician-gynecologist, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, and chief medical advisor for Bird&Be, told Yahoo Life: “There are many options for medically managing menstrual cycles to improve. .. life quality.” Nayot advises menstruates to defend themselves “if the frequency, duration, amount of flow, or associated pain has a negative impact” on their life. He adds that anyone who is menstruating should “be proactive” with their care and see their doctor for blood work and other tests if they have any concerns.

Knowing the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period is helpful in other ways. Dr Arlene Go, an obstetrician and endometriosis specialist at Hera Biotech, tells Yahoo Life that it’s important to know “what phase of the cycle the patient is in at the time, follicular or luteal. Sometimes the symptoms are related to some part of their cycle, and this is important to know for both diagnosis and treatment. Without knowing the date of a patient’s last menstrual period, it can be difficult to determine where she is in her cycle.

Liesel Teen, labor and delivery nurse and founder of Mommy Labor Nurse, explains thatWhere you are in your menstrual cycle can affect different things, including your weight, vaginal discharge, breast texture, and vital signs,” so knowing the first day of your last menstrual period is “important information” for your provider. Teen tells Yahoo Life, “If your provider notices a change in your health since your last visit, it’s helpful to know if that change could be caused by where you are in your cycle” or something. worse.

For example, breast cancer screening can be influenced by where a woman is in her menstrual cycle. “Your breasts may feel lumpier at certain times of your cycle than at others,” Teen says. “Knowing this information could help your provider determine if the change in texture is related to your cycle or if it needs to be investigated further.”

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Teen recognizes that remembering all of this information can be difficult. So she recommends anyone who is menstruating to track their period and symptoms with an app, calendar, or diary. Nayot adds that “aggregated data” over time gives doctors even more insight into a patient’s menstrual cycle. “Looking back at your cycles and associated symptoms, you might uncover interesting patterns that could benefit the patient,” he says.

The teen agrees, saying: “There’s a lot of information that can be gleaned from your menstrual cycle, so having accurate information to give to your provider is extremely helpful.” Although women may be embarrassed to talk about their period, Teen says it’s “no different than discussing your blood pressure results or any other health issue,” adding that it’s “important to discuss it”.

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