Do you have concerns about your menstrual cycle or wonder if your cycle is considered “normal?” Your menstrual cycle can say so much about your health. Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you and your physician to identify any issues or concerns. If you are not currently tracking your cycle, you may want to start.
When Was Your Last Period?
Sound familiar? For women that is a common question that you hear from your doctor during an appointment. You think you will remember but then doubt sets in and you are not completely sure what that day is now.
When you track your menstrual cycle you will start to have a better understanding of what is normal for you. Plus, you will be able to identify any important changes and help you to identify when you ovulate. There are also apps that you can download to help you track your cycle.
Menstrual Cycle Overview
A women’s menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes that her body experiences in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. One of the ovaries will release an egg each month and that process is called ovulation. During that time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of the uterus will be shed through the vagina. That is a menstrual period.
Do You Frequently Ask Yourself… Is My Period Normal?
Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. That timeframe isn’t the same for every woman. Your menstrual flow can occur anywhere from 21 to 35 days and it may last anywhere from two to seven days. During the first few years having longer cycles can be quite common. As you get older, your menstrual cycles tend to shorten and/or become more regular.
To find what your normal is, you may want to ask yourself… Does my cycle start within that “normal” range of 21 to 35 days? Or does it last about the same length of time each month? Do you consider your periods to be pain-free or painful? To find out if your flow is considered light or heavy… You could look at the number of tampons or pads you use in a day. On average, women can lose 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their periods. If you find some consistency month after month, you now know what the norm is for you. Not what is normal for your best friend or your mother – but what normal looks like for you.
Certain types of contraception, such as extended-cycle birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs), can change your menstrual cycle. If you choose to be on a contraceptive, be sure to talk to your doctor and they can go over what you can expect with each one.
As you get closer to menopause, your cycle might become irregular. If you find any changes in your cycle you should consult with your healthcare provider. Especially, since the risk of uterine cancer increases as you age, discuss with them your concerns about any irregular bleeding.
What Causes Menstrual Cycle Irregularities?
If you find yourself feeling like your menstrual cycle has become irregular you may want to take a closer look to see if one or more of the following could be considered.
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you are sexually active and you missed a period, you may be pregnant. Breastfeeding can delay the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
- Eating disorders, extreme weight loss, or excessive exercising. If you suffer from an eating disorder or have experienced extreme weight loss – both can disrupt menstruation. Increased physical activity can also change your cycle.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This common endocrine system disorder may cause irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid known as follicles located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
- Premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40. Women who have premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency, may have had irregular periods for years.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is an infection of the reproductive organs that can cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are a common type of non-cancerous tumor that can grow in and on your uterus. These fibroids can cause heavy menstrual periods and prolonged menstrual periods.
What Can I Do To Prevent Menstrual Irregularities?
Some women choose birth control pills to help them regulate their menstrual cycles. If you have some underlying issues such as an eating disorder, treating the issues will help. There are some menstrual irregularities that can not be prevented.
Consult your healthcare provider if:
- Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days (and you’re not pregnant)
- Your periods suddenly become erratic after having been regular
- You bleed for more than seven days in a row
- You bleed heavier than what is normal for you or soak through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
- Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
- You bleed between your periods
- You develop severe pain (more than what is normal for you) during your period
- You suddenly get a fever or feel sick after using tampons
If you are unsure what your normal is, be sure to track your menstrual cycle. You can use a standard calendar to jot down the first day you start your period and continue to do that every month. As we mentioned earlier there are apps that can help you too.
As always, here at OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we are here for you through all the changes a woman’s body can go through. There is no reason to face any health challenge on your own. Set up your appointment today.