Menstruation, also known as a period, is a monthly cycle where the uterine (womb) lining is shed. This cycle occurs every 21-35 days, normally, and a woman’s period lasts approximately five days.
The menstrual cycle has several phases, in normal circumstances. The menses phase is what is typically thought of as the “period,” when blood and tissue of the uterus sheds out through the vagina, if pregnancy has not occurred. This phase can last between 2 to 7 days, normally, but if the woman has an abnormal cycle, she may not have a period at all, or her period could be longer than 7 days.
Other examples of menstrual problems include:
- Menstrual cycles occurring less than 21 days or longer than 35 days apart.
- Missing three or more periods, consecutively, when pregnancy has not occurred, and the woman is younger than 45 and not experiencing menopause. This condition is called amenorrhea.
- Not beginning to menstruate by age 15, or within 3 years after breasts begin to develop.
- Very light or very heavy periods.
- Pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting accompanying period.
- “Spotting,” or light bleeding, that happens between periods, after menopause, or after sexual intercourse.
If you experience any of the symptoms of abnormal menstruation, consider contacting your doctor to determine the underlying cause and get the appropriate treatment.
Normal symptoms of menstruation include mood changes, sleeping difficulty, cravings, cramps, bloating, and breast tenderness. If any of these symptoms become sufficiently bothersome, your doctor can help you alleviate the problems.
Irregular Menstruation Causes and Treatments
Abnormal menstruation may be caused by a number of variables and underlying medical conditions. You may experience irregular periods for the following reasons:
- Birth control pills. A common side effect of birth control pills is mid-cycle spotting. This may be alleviated by changing to another pill that has a different level of hormones (birth control pills contain estrogen/or progestin to prevent the woman from ovulating).
- Uterine polyps or fibroids. These growths may be no larger than an apple seed, or may exceed the size of a softball. Usually the growths are benign, but they can cause heavy bleeding and pain during menses.
- Endometriosis. This condition causes cells from the uterus to grow in other areas of the body, creating irregular bleeding and pain and infertility.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease. An infection of the uterine lining, fallopian tubes or ovaries that can cause heavy vaginal discharge, irregular periods, pain, fever, nausea/vomiting and diarrhea.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. Ovulation stops from the ovaries producing the male hormone androgen, preventing eggs from maturing. Women may have irregular periods or not have any periods. The condition can be treated with weight loss (obesity is often a comorbid condition), birth control pills, and an insulin sensitizing pill.
- Premature ovary failure. A woman’s periods may become irregular or stop completely in women under age 40. This may be from cancer treatments or chromosomal abnormalities.
- Uterine or cervical cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation may also induce early menopause.
- Medications such as steroids or blood thinners.
- Medical conditions such as anemia, bleeding disorders, thyroid irregularities, or other hormonal problems.
- Rapid weight loss or gain, or other disruptions to the body.
Don't let an irregular menstruation get in the way of your day-to-day life. If you want real relief, West Medical is here to help. If you suffer from irregular periods and experience unpleasant symptoms, please call our offices at (855) 690-0565 and we will be happy to set up an appointment for you.
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