One woman's abnormal period might be another woman's version of normal. In fact, up to 30% of women have irregular periods during their childbearing years. However, there is a baseline that gynecologists use to diagnose whether or not your period is “abnormal.” Two of the usual suspects for irregular periods in women are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism. Review this handy checklist to see if any of these menstruation symptoms pertain to you:
- Does your period occur more often than every 21 days, or every three weeks?
- Are your periods more than 35 days, or 5 weeks, apart? (Oligomenorrhea)
- Are you skipping three or more periods every year?
- Has your period stopped altogether? (Amenorrhea )
- Is your menstrual flow heavier or lighter than normal? By “heavier,” you should consider it heavy if you are soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour, for two or three hours in a row.
- Are you passing large blood clots? By “large,” are they the size of a quarter? Or larger?
- Do you feel a “flooding sensation,” or an abrupt release of vaginal blood, when you stand up from a sitting position?
- Does your period last more than seven days?
- Do you experience cramping, nausea, vomiting, or pain? (Dysmenorrhea )
- Are you spotting or bleeding outside of your regular menstrual cycle, or after sex?
- Do you have an abnormal or foul-smelling vaginal discharge?
- Are you running a high fever during your period?
- Do you have bouts of irregular periods after having bouts of regular menstrual cycles?
- Have you ever had symptoms of toxic shock syndrome? These symptoms include a 102-degree fever (or higher), vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, or dizziness.
- Do you have sharp pelvic region pain between your menstrual cycles?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor may perform the following exams to rule out other medical issues:
- A pelvic exam, including a PAP test
- Blood tests to determine if you're anemic, or having other medical issues, such as perimenopause or early menopause
- Vaginal cultures, checking for infections
- A pelvic ultrasound, checking for uterine fibroids, polyps, or ovarian cysts
- An endometrial biopsy, to check you for endometriosis, a hormonal imbalance, or cancerous cells
If your abnormal periods are causing you discomfort, there are numerous treatments that can improve your discomfort, or resolve it altogether. Some of these treatments may include the following:
Hormone Therapy - You might be prescribed estrogen or progestin to control your heavy bleeding.
Pain Relief - Anything from heating pads or a warm bath to over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can relax you and alleviate your discomfort. Aspirin is not recommended, since it thins the blood and can cause you additional bleeding.
Uterine Fibroid Alleviation - Your heavy bleeding could be minimized by low-dose birth control pills or progestin injections. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists are drugs that shrink the size of the fibroids and control heavy bleeding, but they also reduce your body's ability to produce estrogen, so they may stop your menstruation altogether for a while. Another option is a myomectomy, which is a procedure to actually remove your fibroid(s). A uterine artery embolization cuts off the blood supply to your living fibroid tissue. A hysterectomy is the most extreme option, in which the fibroids are removed, along with your uterus.
Endometriosis Mitigation - While over-the-counter pain relievers will reduce your pain, to date, there is no cure for endometriosis. Your doctor may use birth control pills to prevent your uterus from overgrowing tissue, which reduces your blood loss during your menstrual cycle. Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor may use a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist or progestin to temporarily stop your periods. As mentioned previously, a hysterectomy is your last resort.
Request more information about abnormal periods today. Call (718) 743-0505 or contact us online.