The Real Reason Doctors Ask About Your Menstrual Cycle

When you have a doctor's appointment, you will likely be asked many questions, some more perplexing than others. It is obvious why a doctor would want to know about your sexual activity or smoking habits (or lack thereof), but some people may have trouble understanding why doctors ask about periods. The reality is that all of these questions are important and relevant to your health and well-being.

So why do doctors ask about your period? Part of it is obvious: they want an idea of whether or not you are pregnant, and if you've had your period in the last month, it is likely that you are not. This is important because certain medications and therapies aren't safe during pregnancy, says Dr. Jen Gunter (via New York Times). That being said, your menstrual cycle can reveal a lot more about your health than just whether or not you are pregnant.

Some experts view the menstrual cycle as a vital sign

Vital signs can shed light on a person's health and can help detect and monitor health problems. According to Johns Hopkins University, vital signs include body temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) argues that the menstrual cycle should be considered a vital sign. This is because an abnormal menstrual cycle can be a sign of many different health conditions, such as thyroid disease or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In fact, a 2020 study published in the British Medical Journal found that abnormal menstrual cycles are associated with a higher risk of heart disease and premature mortality.

Dr. Amos Grunebaum of BabyMed recommends keeping track of when your periods start and end, and the number of days between your periods. The ACOG notes that your menstrual cycle may be a cause for concern if you need to change your sanitary products every 1-2 hours, if your period lasts longer than 7 days, if your periods occur more than once every 21 days or less than once every 45 days, or if you go more than 3 months without a period.