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The Skinny on Irregular Periods

Written by Courteney

Posted on May 18, 2016 at 12:53 am

Not every women has a clock-work monthly visitor, some have more erratic menstruation. An abnormal period can be relatively harmless or can indicate or lead to other health complications. Here are some facts about abnormal menstruation, underlying causes and when to see a pro.

Fast Facts About Abnormal Menstruation:

  • A normal menstrual cycle occurs every 28 days, but can range between 21-35 days apart.
  • Amenorrhea is a condition marked by an absence of menstruation for more than 90 days or by a female who is 15 or older and has not started her period.
  • ‘Natural ammenorhea’ is most often caused by pregnancy, menopause and breast feeding.
  • Oligomenorrhea refers to infrequent periods that don’t quite qualify as amenorrhea but are not normal and can lead to issues.
  • While most women have some discomfort, dysmenorrhea is a condition marked by severely painful or incapacitating cramping during menstruation.
  • Menorrhagia refers to an excessively heavy period. A fairly common complication of menorrhagia is anemia (iron deficiency) from excessive blood loss.
  • Another type of abnormal menstruation includes women who ‘spot’ (bleed between cycles) frequently, bleed during sex or after menopause.

Causes of Abnormal Menstruation

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some common causes of abnormal menstruation include:

  1. Stress can cause serious strain on the body. Chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol can suppress progesterone and estrogen output, stalling menstruation for months or longer.
  2. Lifestyle habits – drastic weight changes, diet or activity changes or general illness can adversely impact the menstruation cycle. Women who exercise excessively sometimes experience ammenorhea.
  3. Hormone treatment – hormone altering medications such as birth control can give your cycle a complete 180’. Instead of your usual week long regular-to-heavy periods, you may get very light ones that last only a couple days. The pill generally (not always) lessens the duration and flow of a woman’s period. In some cases, it can cause oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea.
  4. Reproductive health problems – reproductive health issues such as endometriosis, uterine fibroid tumors, polycystic ovaries or STIs such as pelvic inflammatory disease can all adversely affect the menstruation cycle. In some cases chronically abnormal periods can be an indication of serious health problems like uterine cancer so it is important to keep an eye on any changes or irregularities in your cycle.
  5. Medications – medications such as steroids can severely impact menstruation. Similarly to the previously mentioned effects of chronically elevated cortisol, medications like prednisone can suppress menstrual function.

When To See A Doctor

You should contact your primary care doctor (or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians) for a pap smear or check up if there have been significant changes to your cycle, if you experience excessive pelvic pain or cramping, unusual spotting or heavy bleeding, or if your periods have stopped.

 

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