At the center of the discussion was the importance of identifying health issues linked to the menstrual cycle, as well as clarifying any misconceptions. "The menstrual cycle is a window into the general health and well-being of women, and not just a reproductive event," said Paula Hillard, M.D., professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "It can indicate the status of bone health, heart disease, and ovarian failure, as well as long-term fertility. Therefore, if a woman is not having her period, it is the first sign that something else could be going on."
Doctors and scientists also discussed the long- and short-term effects of irregular or interrupted periods (amenorrhea) brought on by over-training of female athletes and excessive dieting and exercise, as well as oral contraceptives designed to suppress the monthly cycle. The experts called for more research to determine the impact of menstrual suppression and its potential side effects on future fertility and long-range health.
"The most important thing to emphasize about menstrual suppression is that the long-term effects are simply unknown," said Jerilynn Prior, M.D., professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and board member for the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. "Whether a woman is electing to do so with new birth control products, or it results from excessive dieting or exercise, we as a society are allowing the one vital sign unique to women to go unmonitored,