By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine
When you're filling out the loads of paperwork and meeting with the doc during an initial visit, at some point this question will come up: "How old were you when you got your first period?"
It has always struck us as an odd question, but a recent study proves it's a crucial piece of your medical profile.
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In the study, researchers found that that getting your first period at age 10 or earlier can double your asthma risk. This news -- along with recent studies indicating that girls are getting their periods younger than ever (before age 13 as opposed to 16 or 17 a century ago) -- got us wondering exactly what other health risks are associated with getting your period earlier or later than the average girl.
"The reason physicians ask about the age of menarche is not because we are looking for a magic or right answer," says Caren Craig, MD, an OB/GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. "We are just trying to assess the integrity of a woman's circuitry -- brain to ovary to uterus. We are looking for red flags that could indicate difficulties in future fertility. And we are looking for any clues that could help us answer a woman's presenting complaint."
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According to Craig, the average North American woman gets her first period between ages 10 and 15, with the average being 12. "An age we would consider abnormally young for menses would be less than age 8, and abnormally old would be older than age 16," she says.
"One ramification of early menses to a woman later in life is that this correlates with an increase in the possibility if breast and endometrial cancer," says Craig. It's also been linked to heart disease, body image issues (breast buds at age 6 aren't fun!) and risky behavior in young girls.
"The risk of late menses is that this could imply future fertility obstacles as well as the possibility or metabolic disorders."
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If you have a young daughter, the best way to slow puberty may be to live green -- limiting the amount of estrogen she is exposed to via plastics, chemicals and foods. If her puberty is delayed, it may be because she's undergoing intense, strenuous daily training for a sport, according to Craig. In this case, talk to the doctor and the coach to make sure her activity level is healthy.
When did you get your first period?
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