Some women can set a clock according to their periods and can predict the duration and flow accurately each month. For other women, periods may not be as regular but are still considered normal. How can you tell what’s normal, what’s not, and when you should seek help?
At Signature Women’s Healthcare, we understand that telling the difference between a normal and an abnormal period isn’t always easy. Our board-certified OB/GYNs, Jacquline Hayles-Patterson, MD and Tyndal M. Jones, MD, are here to help. We offer customized diagnostic and treatment services for women in Lawrenceville and Lithonia, Georgia suffering from abnormal periods.
Read on to learn what’s considered an abnormal period and why you shouldn’t ignore it!
What is a normal period?
What constitutes a normal period varies for each woman, but in general, menstrual cycles occur every 21-35 days and last 2-7 days. Some women have very light periods, while others regularly experience heavy bleeding.
You can also have a normal period but experience slight differences in duration, flow, and other symptoms each month. Generally, as you get older, your periods become more regular; however, normal hormonal fluctuations can add some unpredictability into the mix.
In short, there’s a broad range of what constitutes a normal period. Keeping track of your cycle can help you better understand what’s normal for you.
When is a period considered abnormal?
It can be difficult to know if your periods are abnormal, but there are some telltale signs. If your period lasts longer than a week, if you have your periods more than 35 days apart or more frequently than every 21 days, or if you stop getting periods for more than three menstrual cycles, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN.
Additionally, if you experience abnormally heavy bleeding, you should seek medical advice. Signs of heavy bleeding include:
- Needing to change your tampon or pad more than once an hour for several consecutive hours
- Needing to use two types of feminine hygiene products at the same time
- Passing blood clots larger than a quarter
- Bleeding through your clothing
- Strong menstrual cramps that prevent you from going to school or work
Why is my period abnormal?
There are many different reasons women experience abnormal periods. Some are based on lifestyle, and others may be rooted in genetics or underlying health concerns. Here are the six most common causes of abnormal periods:
1. Pregnancy or breastfeeding
Missing one or more periods can indicate you might be pregnant, but breastfeeding can also affect your normal cycle. For some women who are breastfeeding, periods may resume but may not be regular right away.
2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome results from an imbalance of hormones that prevents the maturation of your eggs. Women with PCOS can have irregular periods or stop menstruating altogether.
3. Lifestyle factors
Your menstrual cycle can be affected by numerous lifestyle factors. Gaining or losing significant amounts of weight, excessive exercise, illness, travel, and even stress can trigger abnormal periods.
With endometriosis, the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the womb. In addition to cramps and abdominal pain, endometriosis can cause abnormal bleeding.
5. Uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors. These tumors grow in the wall of the uterus and range in size. While they are benign, fibroids can cause abnormal periods.
6. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease is caused by a bacterial infection. In addition to abnormal periods, PID may cause heavy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, pain in your pelvis or lower abdomen, fever, and nausea or other GI symptoms.
Why shouldn’t I ignore an abnormal period?
One irregular cycle isn’t cause for concern, but if you have chronic abnormal periods, it could be a signal from your body that something isn’t quite right. Abnormal periods are often the first indicator that you have an underlying health condition, such as thyroid disease or PCOS, that requires medical attention.
In addition, abnormal periods can negatively impact your fertility. Seeking medical care ensures faster diagnosis and treatment.
Are there treatment options for abnormal periods?
There are different treatment options for abnormal periods, but the method of treatment depends on the root cause of your abnormal periods. The team at Signature Women’s Healthcare evaluates your symptoms, medical and family history, and performs a physical exam to get to the root cause of your period trouble.
Some women benefit from the hormonal and ovulatory regulation offered by birth control pills. For other women, minimally invasive treatments, like IUDs or endometrial ablation, may address symptoms like heavy or irregular bleeding.
For more information about or treatment for abnormal periods, call the Signature Women’s Healthcare office nearest you or book an appointment online now!