A regular menstrual cycle is a sign that your body's functioning as it should. You should have regular periods unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, perimenopausal, postmenopausal, or have a medical condition that causes your periods to stop. Below, we provide an overview of the different types of menstrual cycle problems that can affect a woman’s natural flow. We also discuss symptoms to watch for and possible treatments.
Dealing with a menstrual cycle problem can be frustrating and even debilitating at times. Our practitioners at Moreland OB-GYN can help you manage these issues with counseling and personalized treatments.
Menstruation, or period, is when the lining of a woman’s uterus sheds, leading her to bleed through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina. This process should occur once a month and prepares the woman’s body for possible pregnancy.
The menstrual cycle is the cycle a woman’s body goes through every month where the uterus grows and sheds a lining that could support the development of a fertilized egg. The cycle is dependent on a series of complex natural hormone changes and production, particularly the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
The menstrual cycle, which is tracked from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period, is not the same for every woman. Menstrual flow might occur anywhere between days 21 and 35, and bleeding can last between two to seven days.
Many women experience regular periods where flow begins on the exact day and lasts the same length every month. It’s not uncommon for a woman to have slightly irregular periods and still be considered a ‘normal’ cycle for her body. Although, if a woman is experiencing extreme period pain, heavy bleeding (saturating a pad every hour, for a couple hours), or a disruptive cycle—talking to a doctor can help determine if a menstrual cycle problem is present.
There are many different types of menstrual cycle problems. Problems range from having no period at all to having extremely heavy, prolonged and painful periods. It’s important to track your periods, pay close attention to your body, and discuss any menstrual cycle concerns with your OB-GYN.
Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is a series of physical and emotional symptoms a woman may experience during any phase of her menstrual cycle. It typically occurs between ovulation (when the uterus releases an egg) and a period. It’s likely caused by the fluctuating hormones throughout the cycle.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Syndrome is when PMS symptoms are so extreme, they disrupt daily living tasks like functioning at home, at work, and in relationships.
Premenstrual syndrome symptoms include but are not limited to:
Premenstrual syndrome treatments:
Primary dysmenorrhea is the cramping pain in the lower abdomen occurring just before and during menstruation that isn’t due to other diseases. It is very common and prevalent in about 90-percent of menstruating women. Symptoms may include mild to severe pain in the lower back, abdomen, back, or thighs. A woman may also experience fatigue, nausea, or diarrhea. Common treatments include taking ibuprofen, placing a heating pad on the abdomen, and resting when needed.Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain and cramping as a result of an underlying problem with the reproductive organs, including:
Menorrhagia is when a woman experiences extremely heavy or abnormally long periods. Defining symptoms include having to change a pad or tampon every hour and/or having a period that lasts longer than seven days. Hormone imbalances, uterine fibroids, and certain types of birth control are all possible causes of menorrhagia.
You and your doctor at Moreland OB-GYN can work together to find the cause of your heavy bleeding and discuss an appropriate treatment plan, which may include hormone therapy to help regulate periods and reduce the amount of bleeding.
Amenorrhea is characterized by having absent menstrual periods for more than three consecutive menstrual cycles. The two types of Amenorrhea are Primary Amenorrhea (menstruation does not begin at puberty) and Secondary Amenorrhea (regular menstrual periods that become abnormal and irregular).
Amenorrhea can occur as a result of certain medications or a medical problem including:
Treatments include changes to your exercise routine, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. Birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy may also be suggested if lifestyle changes are not enough.
Metrorrhagia, also referred to as unusual uterine bleeding, is when a woman bleeds outside her expected monthly periods.
Possible causes include:
Treatments for metrorrhagia will depend on the underlying cause. It’s important to talk to your doctor about all your symptoms and develop a personalized approach. Lifestyle changes and hormonal therapy may be suggested.
Menstrual migraines, or hormonal headaches, start right before or during a woman’s period and can occur every month. The cause for menstrual migraines is the drop of estrogen levels before the start of a menstrual flow. Symptoms include a severe and debilitating headache that may cause sensitivity to light, nausea, fatigue, and/or dizziness.
Treatments include a combination of a fast-acting triptan taken with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as naproxen or ibuprofen. Hormonal therapy may also be used to prevent the natural estrogen drop that triggers the menstrual migraine.
The menstrual cycle depends on a number of factors, including a very complex balance of hormones. Every woman’s body is different and it’s important to work with your obstetrician/gynecologist to understand the cause of your menstrual cycle problems so you can find the right treatment.
If you’re concerned you have a menstrual cycle problem, please schedule an appointment with Moreland OB-GYN. Our team of caring physicians and advanced practice providers will take the time to discuss your needs and walk you through our treatment solutions. Moreland OB-GYN is here as your trusted OB-GYN partner.