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Menstrual problems of teenage girls

My daughter started menstruating at 13 years. She is now 15 and suddenly her monthly periods have become irregular and sometimes skip a month. She is in class X and preparing for her boards. I wonder if this is because of stress.
— Worried mother, Chennai

Stress can’t be the only cause. Note down the number of irregular menstrual cycles. If the number of irregular cycles are one-two, there’s no cause for anxiety. If irregularity persists for more than three cycles, investigate further. Is there abnormal weight gain? Is her haemoglobin count normal? She should also undergo a diagnostic test to ascertain if she is suffering anemiaor polycystic ovaries.

I suspect my 15-year-old daughter is suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). She has put on a lot of weight in the past few years. Is she too young to develop PCOS?
— Worried mother, Bangalore

PCOS is common among teenage girl children these days. Weight gain apart, other symptoms, include facial hair growth and acne. Treatment plans usually include medication, dietary and lifestyle changes. Please be observant and make a detailed note of the duration of her monthly menstrual cycles, weight gain, and other physical changes, etc before consulting a gynaecologist.

I have been reading about the benefits of switching to cloth pads and menstrual cups, not just for environmental sustainability but for health reasons as well. Are commercially produced sanitary pads unhygienic and unsafe?
— Preethi V, Chennai

Commercial sanitary pads can be used but need to be changed frequently. Similarly when using cloth or biodegradable pads, frequency of change needs to be followed as per instructions. Undergarments should also be changed every six-eight hours. Vaginal washes can be used to avoid rashes and in case of wetness, apply some talcum powder. If there is itching, use candid powder. Moreover it’s advisable to wear cotton instead of nylon panties which tend to cause skin irritation.

My daughter’s menstrual cycle began two years ago. She is now 13 years old. She complains of intense stomach cramps before the onset of her period. How can this be remedied?
— Shruthi M, Bangalore

In cases of early onset of puberty, stomach cramps are common, and generally nothing to worry about. The uterus is immature, the uterine opening may be small and perineal area and pelvic floor muscles tight. This results in pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic nerves. Exercise can provide some relief. If pain is severe, anti-spasmodic medications can be taken. It’s probable she will outgrow stomach cramps after she turns 18 years. However if pain persists or there are other abnormal symptoms, consult a gynaecologist.

 (Dr. R. Sankari Alagarasan is a gynaecologist and infertility specialist at Clarite Abikshaiya Hospital, Madurai)

Also read: Are plastic lunch boxes unhealthy for children?

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