Variation in adolescent menstrual cycles, doctor-patient relationships, and why we shouldn't prescribe hormonal contraceptives to twelve year olds.

Theresa Emmerling, Ashley Higgins, Kathryn B. H. Clancy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Despite evidence that demonstrates the fundamental cha racteristics of adolescent menstrual cycles are variability and fre- quent anovulation, young girls, particu- larly in the United States, are regularly prescribed hormonal contraceptives to con- trol that variability. Though it takes five years or more to achieve regular ovulatory cycles, girls as young as twelve are visiting their doctors with complaints of infrequent cycles and being diagnosed with amenor- rhea. Some medical doctors suggest a more stringent determination of amenorrhea in adolescents than in adults, from six months down to only three months without menses. We suggest that the use of hormo- nal contraceptives in young girls can have negative health consequences related to lifetime estrogen exposure, including breast cancer. Through a combination of literature review and pilot survey results, we pro- pose several reasons for this phenom- enon of very early hormonal contracep- tive use. First, doctors and patients are largely unaware of the body of evidence showing that variation in cycle length and anovulation are normal and healthy in adolescents. Second, doctors often assume that young girls who report menstrual irregularity do so in order to secure hormonal contraceptives to have safe sex, but feel prohibited or embarrassed from asking outright. Finally, doctors are mired in a health system that can feel like a customer support model, where they are expected to resolve symptoms. We suggest that a large number of young girls may visit their doctors for these issues under du- ress of their parents, or to seek reassur- ance from an expert that they are normal, but not necessarily to secure contraception
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts of AAPA Poster and Podium Presentations, American Journal of Physical Anthropology v. 144 no. 1
Pages133
Volume144
StatePublished - 2011

Keywords

  • INHS

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Variation in adolescent menstrual cycles, doctor-patient relationships, and why we shouldn't prescribe hormonal contraceptives to twelve year olds.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this