Your Period Problems Solved: Suddenly, without warning, youre early or late, or your flow is heavy, light, or nonexistent and you know youre not pregnant! You and millions of women understandably wonder, Is this normal or is something terribly wrong? Most period puzzles are easy to solve. Some women who arent on the Pill spot when they ovulate because of a rapid surge and decline in estrogen midcyle.
Another culprit can be polyps, which are an overgrowth of normal tissue in the uterus or cervix that may be caused by high estrogen levels.
Many women have no idea they have polyps, but some who have cervical polyps may experience bleeding after sex. If youre on the Pill and the spotting doesnt resolve itself in a few months, Dr.
Minkin says, ask about a higher-dose Pill. If polyps are your problem, your doc can remove them to check for premalignancies or malignancies, though theyre rare in women younger than And while cervical or uterine cancer is an unlikely cause, visit your doc if the spotting doesnt go away, particularly if the spotting occurs after sex.
Heavy Flow Whats up: If your period comes in tsunami-like waves, chances are youll spend hundreds of extra dollars on pads and tampons. You may have fibroids, benign tumors in the uterus; they distort the uterine wall, which can worsen bleeding when you shed the uterine lining during your period.
Fibroids are not the same as polyps. Fibroids are made from fibrous tissue in the uterus, while polyps are composed of the lining of the uterus or cervix. Fibroids become more common as women age: Minkin says that 30 to 40 percent of Caucasian women will have them by menopause, and African-American women get them even more frequently.
Not all fibroids cause bleeding, and some can cause pain or pressure on the bladder, rectum, or belly. A rarer culprit for heavy periods may be a bleeding disorder like Von Willebrand disease, which makes it hard for your blood to clot. Fibroids can be eliminated by ultrasound surgery, uterine artery embolization in which the blood supply to the fibroid is cut off , having them shaved off during surgery, hysterectomy, and other methods.
Each treatment for fibroids has some pros and cons. If you have Von Willebrand disease, medication is available, but youll likely want to see a hematologist for treatment. Light Flow Whats up: Low-dose combination or progestin-only Pills may reduce your flow, Dr. If youre not on hormonal birth control and you see nothing but a little bit of staining, you could have an imbalance of thyroid or pituitary hormones. If the Pill is reducing your flow and that bothers you which isnt likely , try a different birth control method.
If its a thyroid problem, you may need meds. See your gyno, who can refer you to an endocrinologist. An anatomical issue like a malformed uterus would need corrective surgery.
Irregular Cylces Whats up: If you miss a period, pregnancy or menopause are two obvious explanations. But if youre not old enough for the change and youre using reliable birth control and know you arent pregnant, the possibilities are endless.
Thats the five years or more prior to menopause when your body transitions out of the childbearing years. Youll know its perimenopause if you also experience occasional hot flashes, sleep trouble, anxiety, and mood changes, Dr. If its not perimenopause, it could be stress, severe weight loss, or extreme weight gain, all of which can knock your hormones out of whack. Medications that work on the central nervous system, like antidepressants, can also mess with your cycle.
Endocrine disorders like thyroid disease can cause irregular periods, too, as can polycystic ovary disease, a hormonal snafu that may lead to obesity, acne, and excessive hair growth.
Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes that includes obesity, high blood sugar, low levels of HDL good cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure, could also be responsible.
If the period change is sudden, dont wait longer than three months to see your gyno, Dr. Otherwise, you may be ignoring an underlying problem that needs immediate treatment.
For uncomfortable perimenopausal symptoms, your gyno may recommend that you sleep in a cool room, dress in layers you can peel off if you get hot, and exercise regularly for stress relief.
Or she might suggest hormone therapy the same kind used in women going through menopause or low-dose birth control pills. If your medications are the problem, changing the type or dosage can help, but dont do it without talking to the doctor who prescribed it. Usually the cause is prostaglandins, chemicals manufactured in the uterus that bring on contractions to expel the uterine lining during your period.
But if you have incredibly disabling cramps, it could be endometriosis, which affects 7 to 10 percent of women. The disorder is marked by uterine tissue growing outside the uterus, typically in the pelvic area. Just as the uterine lining sloughs off during your period, the same thing happens to the endometrial tissue outside the uterus, but the blood has nowhere to go.
Minkin says, which causes inflammation. While the risk factors are unknown, Dr. Nardone says endometriosis is associated with very heavy periods, starting your period early, a history of pelvic surgery, or a family history of endometriosis. Ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin fight the production of prostaglandins and reduce pain. Acetaminophen helps some people, but its not as effective. The trick is to take one of these medications as directed on the label at the first hint of cramps or in the days before your period starts, since they have no effect on prostaglandins that have already been manufactured.
For endometriosis, you will probably need hormonal treatments that lower estrogen levels in the body or surgery to remove endometrial tissue. No Period Whats up: If youve ruled out hormonal problems and other ailments linked to irregular cycles, you just might be pregnant. Some womens long periods overlap with the beginning of ovulation, which means that youre fertile even though youre menstruating.
Say you have a short cycle 21 days, for example and your period lasts a week. If you have sex close to the end of your period, you could become pregnant since sperm can live for 72 hours in your reproductive tract. Theres also the infamous late-in-life pregnancy that can occur during perimenopause, when periods are erratic.
Experts say its not safe to ditch birth control until you havent had a period for a year. If you dont want to get pregnant, always use protection. If you do have unprotected sex, emergency contraception is available from many pharmacies without a prescription.