Menstruation, a word still taboo for many teenagers. And few go to the gynecologist

Menstruation, a word still taboo for many teenagers.  And few go to the gynecologist

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OfMaurizio Tucci

The young women arrive ready and informed for their menstrual cycle appointment but don’t talk about it. 9% have menarche before the age of ten and there has been a boom in cases of precocious puberty

Teenagers, how they «live» them Menses? This was analyzed by the annual survey on the lifestyles of adolescents, by the Adolescence Laboratory and the IARD research institute, in an in-depth analysis carried out in collaboration with the Italian Society of Childhood and Adolescent Gynecology (Sigia), taking into consideration both the physical aspects (pain, regularity, duration), and the more psychological ones (anxiety, nervousness, embarrassment) and comparing the data with a similar survey carried out exactly ten years ago. The survey was carried out on a nationally representative sample of 3,180 girls, between 12 and 19 years old. Well, a first element that emerged concerns the embarrassment and “discomfort” still linked to menstruation, especially in very young people (61% experience it). «While for other spheres of sexuality – he explains Alessandra Marazzanipsychologist from Psichemilano and member of the board of directors of Laboratorio Adolescence — things have changed a lot, when faced with menstruation it is as if still “the word” was missing, the courage to name them. Period, my things, stomach ache, I’m not well, I’m unwell… all ways of going around it so as not to say I’m on my period. And this applies not only in communication with the adult world but, even more interestingly, also in communication between peers. They arrive at menarche ready, informed, the confidence with the mothers is generally good, but then the daily newspaper, or rather “the monthly”, falls into a more intimate intimate context which is still difficult to talk about.”

In a few at the gynecologist

The investigation also took into consideration a preventive aspect of great importance: gynecological checks. And precisely on this point a worrying difference emerged compared to 10 years ago: comparing only the sub-sample of the 12-14 year age group to having never had a gynecological check-up we went from a percentage of 76.3% recorded in 2013 (already alarming) to the current 87.3%. «Evidence that worries us greatly – comments Anna Maria Fulghesu, president of Sigia – and which confirms how increasingly close coordination with paediatricians is necessary to plan a gynecological check-up of girls after menarche. Check – he adds – which has nothing invasive (this is to remove any fear in this regard) and which consists of an external check of the genital organs, an ultrasound but, above all, a “counseling” activity by the gynecologist, to allow girls to clarify their doubts and face an important transition in life with serenity.”

The issues

43% of girls who have had menarche for at least three years they say they have had a regular cycle every 4 weeks and 83.8% say they have a flow lasting between 3 and 7 days. From
dysmenorrhea
(painful menstruation) 33% of those interviewed say they suffer “always” (21.8% in 2013) and 55.1% “from time to time” (57.8% in 2013), but for 51% this does not compromise normal activities, while 29% have to give up practicing sports and 20.2% are forced to stay at home. They are all data – the experts assure – in line with normal physiology, especially considering the young age of the sample, an element that favorscycle irregularities and the presence of pain.

Precocious puberty and Covid

Another obvious difference compared to 2013 (among 12-13 year olds) concerns the age of first menstruation: 8.9% have had menarche before the age of ten (it was 4.1% in 2013) and 16.1% have had it between 10 and 11 years of age (10.1% in 2013 ). A significant advance which, it is no coincidence, largely concerns the girls who had menarche during the Covid and lockdown period. In fact, since the spring of 2020, an increase in cases of
precocious puberty
or accelerated (i.e. a development that is completed in a few months instead of the normal 18-24 months from onset), compared to cases diagnosed in the 5 years pre-Covid. «The phenomenon – reports Gianni Bona, pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Novara and honorary president of Laboratorio Adolescence – has been recorded by numerous Italian and foreign studies». «Among the hypotheses to explain the phenomenon – explains Bona – reference was made to emotional stress, poor nutrition, reduced physical activity and increased sedentary lifestyle, increased use of electronic devices, change in sleeping habits. But the hypothesis, however to be confirmed, of a direct effect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the level of the areas of the brain that govern the mechanisms of activation of puberty: a sort of sui generis “long-Covid”.

March 14, 2024

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