There’s nothing worse than rocking out in your tan skin and white pants than to feel that horrible sensation that your period is here unexpected and unannounced—well, except maybe rocking your white pants well after labor day and then getting your period. For some women their period is no big deal, it comes and goes, on time- every time and it’s a no hassle few days of the month. For those 5 girls in America, you’re lucky because the rest of us millions have had a question about our period at some point during our life.
Having unpredictable, heavy, or abnormal periods can really make life stressful. If you have had any irregularities in your period it doesn’t mean YOU are abnormal- so come out of the mental rewind to that 8th grade video “Am I normal?” and get equipped with some of the facts to help you answer your period puzzle.
Abnormal bleeding can mean different things depending on your age. When you are first starting your period you may get periods on and off, or at irregular intervals because the hormonal feedback system in your body is still maturing. As you get older your periods should get more regular.
For women in their 20’s-40’s, the feedback system is mature so periods should be at regular intervals. Here are some reasons that periods may be abnormal in this age group:
Pregnancy- Now it doesn’t take a medical school degree, or even Britney’s 8 Grammy nominations to know that if you miss your period and you have been getting your swerve on, with or without protection- you might be pregnant. Pregnancy is an easy thing to test for, so don’t procrastinate. Get tested for pregnancy if you miss your period because if you are pregnant you have a lot of other potential life changes to deal with and giving yourself time to consider your options is very important.
Heavy but regular periods- If you get regular periods but they are very heavy this may be due to a fibroid. Fibroids are common, usually benign tumors that often grow in the uterus as extensions of the muscle and can cause heavy or painful periods. The best way to know if you have these is to see your doctor who will likely do a pelvic exam and/or send you for an ultrasound if he/she thinks this is medically necessary. Certain bleeding disorders can also cause women to get heavy periods, and usually this is noticed when people first start their period during puberty. Bring this concern up with your doctor because in addition to checking for bleeding disorders, patients can also become anemic after several cycles of heavy bleeding.
Spotting or bleeding between periods, also known as intermenstrual bleeding is the random bleeding you get at times other than when you expect your period. Intermenstrual bleeding can be caused by a number of factors- here are some common ones:
- Birth Control Pills- Although designed to make your life easier, and regulate the hormone levels in your body , “the pill” can sometimes also cause spotting or breakthrough bleeding. This often happens when someone forgets to take their pill or when the pill isn’t taken around the same time everyday. Depending on the actual pill you are on, some may have varying amounts of hormones which can lead to intermenstrual bleeding. Talk to your doctor about other pills or other options for birth control if this is significantly affecting your daily routine.
- Cervicitis- This is inflammation of the cervix due to any number of causes. Most commonly infections with Gonorrhea or Chlamydia cause cervicitis, but bleeding can also be seen in some cases with Bacterial Vaginitis or other non-infectious causes. As you know- not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so if you are worried about any of these diseases or you have abnormal vaginal discharge see your doctor as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment. This may also clear up your breakthrough bleeding.
- Cervical or Endometrial Cancer- This cause is quite scary, but noteworthy. Getting regular PAP smears is the best way to keep surveillance on these two things. Either of these cancers may cause intermenstrual bleeding, but both have possibilities for treatment if caught early.
- Stress, weight loss or gain, and exercise- can also affect your periods. All three of these things can cause changes in the hormonal feedback loop in your body and give you breakthrough bleeding, or even lack of periods. It is important to stay healthy and exercise but if you are exercising so much that your periods are affected you should see your doctor to discuss if this is the right routine for you and to rule out any other concerns that may be affecting your period.
That was a lot of period talk and you may be totally information overloaded! But before you drop down and get your Google on, be sure to bring up your concerns with your personal doctor. She/he can give you the best advice based on your personal health and history.