As strange as it may seem to some people, most women will experience some level of period abnormality at one point or another in their lives. If you’re looking for signs your period is abnormal, you’ll want to know what you can look out for that could indicate a larger issue, and when you should talk to your doctor about the problem. In this article, we’ll cover the common menstrual irregularities — along with when to call your doctor if you experience something abnormal.
A woman’s menstrual cycle can be disrupted by many things, including medical conditions, birth control pills, pregnancy, or menopause. Abnormal cycles can be caused by hormonal changes in the body, uterine lining changes, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumors), blood clots that form in the uterus, or heavy bleeding from an injury.
Symptoms of an abnormal menstrual cycle include, but aren’t limited to:
Women should seek medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms during their menstrual cycle.
If you experience any of the symptoms previously mentioned, it could indicate that something may be wrong. Heavy periods, menstrual cramps, menstrual flow lasting longer than seven days or clots larger than a lemon are all possible signs that something might not be right. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to ask your gyn about them.
A normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but every woman has different hormone levels, which might make her cycle longer or shorter. If you are bleeding abnormally outside of your regular time, you may have an underlying health condition. You should contact your doctor if:
1. You may be pregnant. While it’s rare for women of childbearing age to experience pregnancy-related complications that lead to irregular periods, this does happen sometimes.
2. You could have early menopause or low estrogen levels from breastfeeding or other causes. Women who are going through early menopause (or have recently gone through menopause) may notice an irregular cycle due to their body’s changing hormone production levels.
3. Your menstrual cycle could be affected by medications you’re taking, such as birth control pills or hormonal treatments like Lupron (if used in the treatment of endometriosis).
4. Heavy menstrual bleeding could indicate uterine fibroids, polyps, endometrial hyperplasia, or another abnormality.
5. Other conditions that might cause heavy menstrual bleeding include: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine prolapse, cancer of the reproductive organs such as ovarian cancer or cervical cancer; congenital abnormalities; and liver problems.
Menstrual periods usually last three to five days. If you are bleeding heavily between menstrual cycles, that may be considered menorrhagia. The following questions will help you determine if your cycle is abnormal:
If any of these apply to you, contact your physician for further testing. Seek medical attention immediately if there’s pain associated with the bleeding, your discharge is dark brown or black in color, or there are large clots.
Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) is the most common problem with menstrual cyles. One of the most common causes of pain related to periods is endometriosis. This happens when tissue lining the uterus starts growing outside of the uterus, usually on the ovaries, bladder, or bowel. Another possible cause could be adenomyosis. Adenomyosis happens when the endometrial tissue grows into the muscle layer in the uterus. This can cause pain similar to that of endometriosis. Other symptoms include heavy bleeding, spotting between periods, prolonged or irregular periods, or constant pain throughout menstruation.
Depending on the reason you’re having pain, your uterus could be at the root of it. For example, if it’s because of endometriosis or uterine fibroids, the pain can range from mild to severe. If you have severe pain that lasts longer than a week without any bleeding, this may be an indication of something more medically serious.
Other symptoms that may indicate an issue are pelvic pressure or heaviness, lower back pain or cramping in the abdomen. These symptoms are often coupled with irregular periods so if you experience one or more of these signs, it’s best to speak with a physician to find the root of the issue.
Spotting between periods or during periods (metrorrhagia) can be a symptom of several different conditions, including hormonal imbalances or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A medical professional will be able to diagnose the cause of the spotting and help address it as well. In some cases, treatment may involve taking birth control pills, which will regulate menstrual cycles. If bleeding persists for more than two weeks in any given cycle, reach out to your doctor.
Symptoms of abnormal menstrual cycles can range from prolonged to shorter than usual periods. In general, there are two potential causes for these symptoms: pregnancy or hormone imbalance. If you have had unprotected sex and are not on birth control, it’s important to take a pregnancy test.
If you’re not pregnant and the irregularity continues, ask your doctor about the possibility of hormone imbalance caused by either over-the-counter medication or prescription drugs. There are also other potential causes of irregular periods that should be considered, such as thyroid disease, PCOS, uterine fibroids, and cancer.
The best way to find out if something’s wrong with your periods is by getting in touch with your doctor. They can do a pelvic exam, as well as other tests, to figure out the underlying cause of the irregularity. If you don’t want to go that route, there are some things you can do at home.
For instance, you could try a different medication (talk to your OB-GYN first), or track the length of your cycle on an app like Clue or Period Tracker. Sometimes it helps to change up your diet. Try eating more whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fruit, and omega-3 fats. Drink lots of water, take magnesium supplements, and exercise. You should also keep track of any possible triggers for the irregularity, such as emotional stress or rapid weight loss.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Lisa Parsons, DO.
While we hope you’ve found this helpful, we can’t give you any medical advice without knowing your situation. Please reach out to a healthcare provider if you have specific questions or concerns. Nothing on this site is intended to diagnose or treat any illness, and no statement is intended or should be construed as medical or legal advice. Please utilize your best judgement and the support of your doctor when making any decisions about your health.