The female reproductive system is an incredibly complex process during which the body prepares itself to support a pregnancy. Researchers have also found that the hormones and processes which are due occur every month are also integral to the bone mass density and potential osteoporosis which a woman faces in her later years. (1)
Many times this reproductive process can go haywire, causing distress or concern to the woman who may not know what is and is not normal. Questions about when a woman should or should not approach her gynecologist or physician about problems with the reproductive system are things spoken about behind closed doors, in chat rooms and with other women. It is important for women to have a full understanding of how the reproductive system works in order to be able to understand when things aren’t working and what her physician may have to say about diagnosis and treatment.
It is completely normal to experience some discomfort or even pain before or during a menstrual period. There are certain signs which should be warning signs for you to seek medical advice. For instance, if symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or the more severe form called premenstrual dysphoric disorder occur then it is important to see your physician for treatment.
While some pain may be completely normal, severe pain during your period or cramps which do not stop within a day or two after the period begins is a warning sign. Some women experience heavy menstrual bleeding over several menstrual cycles which may be an indication that hormonal balances are off or that she is developing fibroid tumors. Young women who fail to have their first menstrual cycle by the age of 16 should seek medical advice because of the significant risk it poses for osteoporosis in later years.
Any time a woman experiences the absence of menstruation for longer than one month (one skipped period), except if she is pregnant or premenopausal, showed seek the advice of her gynecologist. Another cause for concern or reason to seek the advice of a gynecologist is endometriosis. This is a condition which can cause abnormal bleeding, dysmenorrhea and general pelvic pain.
If periods are coming less than 21 days apart on a consistent basis (more than twice) it is time to seek the advice of your gynecologist. If periods stopped for more than three months, last more than seven days or if heavy bleeding lasts for over 24 hours these are indications that it is time to seek the advice of a doctor.
Treatments for any of these conditions will be contingent upon an accurate diagnosis which physicians will accomplish with a thorough medical history and physical examination. In some cases doctors will also perform pelvic examinations, imaging studies such as x-rays or ultrasounds and may consider an internal exam using a small camera and a 1 inch cut in the abdominal wall-called laparoscopy. This procedure is done under general anesthesia in the hospital.
Only through an accurate diagnosis can an appropriate treatment protocol be developed for the woman. It is of significant importance to manage the menstrual appropriately since it has a significant impact on development of high bone mass density in younger years or the resulting osteoporosis in later years.
(1) Journal of Molecular Endocrinology: Osteoporosis, Genetics and Hormones