Mini-Review| Volume 29, ISSUE 1, P2-6, February 2016

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Adolescents with Special Needs: Clinical Challenges in Reproductive Health Care

  • Elisabeth H. Quint
    Address correspondence to: Elisabeth H. Quint, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 E Medical Center Dr, Women's L 4000, Ann Arbor MI, 48109; Phone: (734) 232-3897
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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      Adolescents with special needs have unique reproductive health care needs related to their physical and cognitive issues. This review discusses some of the most common concerns that are encountered in clinical practice, as the clinician will partner with the adolescent and her family to guide her through the pubertal transition and to help navigate the risks and rights of reproduction. Families often seek anticipatory guidance before menarche on menstrual hygiene, abuse risk and sexuality and can be reassured that most teens with special needs do very well with menstruation. The clinician needs to evaluate the teenager’s reproductive knowledge as well her risk for abuse and coercion and her ability to consent to sexual activity, if she requests contraception. Menstrual management is mostly based on the impact of the menstrual cycles on the teenager’s life and activities. The adolescents may have a decreased ability to tolerate menses or pain, or experience changes in seizure pattern or altered mood. Hormonal treatment is often used to assist with menstrual hygiene, cyclical mood changes or dysmenorrhea. The goal of treatment can be complete amenorrhea, alleviate pain or regulate and decrease menstrual flow. The unique risks and benefits of hormonal treatment for this special population are highlighted.

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