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

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

An unwrapped tampon in a woman's hand.

Your period can reveal a lot about your health. (fake images)

No matter what brings a woman to the doctor’s office, you can always expect one question: “When was the first day of your last menstrual period?”

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

“Gynecologists pay a lot of attention to menstruation in general,” she explains. “In fact, it has been proposed that menstruation be considered a vital sign in people with a uterus. Regular periods…are just as important as blood pressure, breathing rate, temperature, 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 that regular periods are “a sign of a healthy body.” She explains that periods that stop or are spaced more than 45 days apart can be a symptom of “thyroid gland disease, eating disorders, strenuous exercise, PCOS, and a few other conditions,” plus of pregnancy.

In addition to keeping track of the day your periods start, Dr. Myda Luu, specialty area chief for obstetrics and gynecology at Kaiser Permanente, recommends that menstruating people track the “length, frequency, and flow of the cycle,” as well as “associated symptoms such as severe cramps, pain during intercourse, bleeding between periods, mood swings during the menstrual cycle, and migraines.” That’s because these symptoms can be helpful in diagnosing and treating a number of different health conditions.

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

Even if a woman doesn’t have immediate health problems and isn’t worried about getting pregnant, checking her periods can help establish a baseline that can be helpful later. Symptoms that indicate a problem for one woman may be completely normal for another, depending on her health history.

Luu explains that “knowing the first day of your last menstrual period is usually about tracking your menstrual cycles and understanding what is normal for you.” you.He adds that follow-up periods and associated symptoms may show “important 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, they bleed for more than seven days, they soak through one or more tampons or pads in less than two hours, they don’t have a period of more than three months, experience severe pain at any point in their cycle, or bleed between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause.

However, if a woman notices changes in her cycle, experts say there’s no need to panic. Dr Dan Nayotobstetrician-gynecologist, reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist and chief medical advisor to bird and be, tells Yahoo Life: “There are many options for medically managing menstrual cycles to improve… quality of life.” Nayot advises those who are menstruating to advocate for themselves “if the frequency, duration, amount of flow, or associated pain has a negative impact” on their lives. 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 useful in other ways. Dr. Arlene Go, obstetrician-gynecologist and specialist fellow studying endometriosis in Hera biotechnology, tells Yahoo Life that it’s important to know “what phase of the cycle the patient is in at the moment, follicular or luteal. Sometimes the symptoms are tied to a certain part of your cycle, and it’s 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.

teen Liesellabor and delivery nurse and founder of labor nurse mommyexplain whatwhere you are in your menstrual cycle can affect many 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 helps to know if that change could be caused by where you are in your cycle” or something more serious.

For example, breast cancer detection can be affected by where a woman is in her menstrual cycle. “Your breasts may feel lumpier at certain points in your cycle compared to others,” Teen explains. “Knowing this information could help your supplier determine if the texture change is related to her cycle or if it should be investigated further.”

Teen acknowledges that it can be difficult to remember all of this information. Therefore, she recommends that anyone who menstruates keep track of her periods and symptoms with an app, calendar, or journal. Nayot adds that “aggregated data” over time gives doctors even more information about a patient’s menstrual cycle. “Looking back at their cycles and associated symptoms could uncover some interesting patterns that could be beneficial to the patient,” she says.

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

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