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1.  The Psychology of Antecedents to Adult Reproductive Disorders in Adolescent Girls 
The normal developmental tasks and roles of adolescence are altered with a diagnosis of a reproductive disorder. The crisis of impaired fertility affects both parent and child, stressing the family system. For the adolescent girl, a reproductive disorder impacts her developing sense of self, body-image and sexuality which, in turn, can affect her self-esteem and relationships with others. Because of the sexual nature of a reproductive disorder, feelings of embarrassment or protectiveness are often engendered that can make it difficult for families to discuss. Nonetheless, families do best with openness and honesty regarding the condition and should be discouraged from keeping the diagnosis a secret.
Adolescence encompasses a broad spectrum of emotional maturity, which needs to be considered by parents and clinicians when communicating information. Understanding that the family is an emotional unit, a family systems approach to deal with health issues is most appropriate. In this context, parents need to first deal with their own feelings about the diagnosis, before they can help their child. Secondly, parents must be provided with tools to build an ongoing conversation with their child that will avoid stigmatizing her condition and handicapping her growth into healthy adulthood. The goal for parent and clinician is to help the adolescent girl formulate positive self-esteem and body image, despite impaired fertility.
PMCID: PMC2762609  PMID: 18574221
2.  The Menstrual Cycle A Biological Marker of General Health in Adolescents 
Menstruation is the cyclic, orderly sloughing of the uterine lining on account of the interactions of hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries. There is a tendency among parents and clinicians to view oligo-amenorrhea as a normal variant in the teen years. In fact, the 95th percentile for the time interval between cycles is 90 days. Thus, it is abnormal for an adolescent to be amenorrheic for greater than 3 months, even in the early gynecologic years. Identification of abnormal menstrual patterns throughout adolescence may permit early identification of potential health concerns for adulthood. Few problems in gynecologic endocrinology are as complex or challenging to the clinician as amenorrhea. However, thorough evaluation of menstrual cycle disorders in adolescence provides a window of opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Here we discuss a systematic approach to the evaluation and treatment of amenorrhea in adolescents who do not have androgen excess. There is strong evidence that estrogen deficiency is a risk factor for later development of osteoporosis and hip fracture. Delay in the evaluation and treatment of disordered menses in some cases may contribute to reduced bone density. Both patients and clinicians need to view the ovary as an important endocrine organ that helps maintain health, especially bone health.
PMCID: PMC2755071  PMID: 18574207
menstrual cycle; amenorrhea; primary amenorrhea; secondary amenorrhea; hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis; bone health; delay in diagnosis; hormone replacement therapy; estrogen deficiency
3.  Reflections on Future Research in Adolescent Reproductive Health 
A group of basic scientists, clinicians, clinical investigators, psychologists, patient advocacy groups, and representatives from professional societies and governmental agencies met at the National Institutes of Health in October, 2007 with the long-term goal of having the menstrual cycle accepted and understood as a marker of general health in adolescent girls. An equally important goal was to develop a research agenda for this area of investigation. This chapter comprises the highlights of discussions throughout that meeting, with an emphasis on ideas generated during a final session led by an internationally renowned physician-scientist, in which reports from four breakout groups were presented. The specific goal assigned to each group was to develop an agenda that would set the stage for how research should be conducted over the next 100 years, and to identify the pressing research questions that should be addressed related to the menstrual cycle and adolescent health. The four areas represented in discussion groups included: genetic research; metabolic and reproductive research; emotional health; and the promotion of conduct of clinical research. Insights are also provided by five clinical investigators, including two outside experts, on both topics of priority for a research agenda in the area of adolescent reproductive health, as well as how the research itself should be conducted.
PMCID: PMC2749462  PMID: 18574236
research; adolescents; reproductive health; menstrual cycle

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