In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) identified menstrual cycles (menses) as a vital sign, which means that it should be considered just as much as someone's blood pressure, weight or pulse.
--Jean Emans, MD, Chief, Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine
Women of all ages may have mixed feelings about their menstrual cycles, but there’s no question that it can be alarming for both you and your daughter if her periods suddenly stop, or if all of her friends have started their cycles, but she hasn’t. Both of these situations are referred to as amenorrhea (pronounced "a-men-or-RE-ah") – which means simply the absence of menstrual periods. There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary:
- Primary amenorrhea means that your daughter hasn’t had a period by age 15 or three years after starting breast development.
- Secondary amenorrhea means that she has had a period before, but stops having them.
On its own, neither of these types of amenorrhea is a disease, but may be caused by a hormone imbalance, weight loss, excessive exercise, pregnancy, medications, stress and a myriad of other problems. This is why it’s important to encourage your daughter to see a healthcare professional if she’s stopped getting her periods, or is late in starting them.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches amenorrhea
Physicians at Children’s were among the first in the nation to recognize the special needs of adolescents, and create a place where they can receive expert care. That’s why we have both the oldest Adolescent Medicine Program (1951) and the oldest Pediatric Gynecology Program (1973) in the United States.
We believe that top-notch treatment calls for integrated multidisciplinary care. Under one roof, we’ve united expertise in gynecology, adolescent medicine, nutrition, social work, psychology, psychiatry, endocrinology and medical and nursing treatments to provide an individual treatment plan for your daughter that addresses her questions. Because while it’s true that we’ve published extensively, written the definitive textbook on pediatric and adolescent gynecology and have referrals from across the globe, we never forget that your daughter is first and foremost a person, concerned about her health.
Amenorrhea: Reviewed by Jean Emans, MD, Chief, Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011
SPOTLIGHT BOX: Center for Young Women’s Health
Here at Children’s Center for Young Women’s Health, we bring together programs, resources and services to empower adolescent girls and young women around the world to take an active role in their own health care. On our web site, you and your daughter can find the most up-to-date information about issues including fitness and nutrition, sexuality and health, health and development, gynecology and emotional health; read about the adventures, experiences and thoughts of our fabulous youth advisors and mentors; submit questions and make an appointment to see one of our experts.