Most adult women know that the first question a gynecologist will ask her is, "When was your last period and how long did it last?" For some the answer is easy because her period arrives like clockwork – after the same number of days every month and lasts for a consistent number of days. For others, it can be challenging to remember because her period may not be regular at all.
It's important to note that there is no "normal" cycle, only what's typical for each patient. The length of each woman's cycle, the heaviness of her period, and the amount of time it lasts can vary from patient to patient and is no indication of a problem. However, when your period has followed a typical pattern for many years and then deviates from that pattern, it may be an indication of a problem.
Some causes of menstrual irregularities include pregnancy, breast-feeding, eating disorders, significant weight loss, extreme exercising, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian failure, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids. Some of these problems are easy to detect, such as pregnancy and weight loss or excessive exercising. Others will require further testing by your physician. Some of these issues may cause pain or future problems and they should be treated while others may not be cause for alarm.
This is why regular checkups with your gynecologist are important. Not only does it cause you to think about whether your period is regular, it also gives your doctor a chance to diagnose any potential problems. Additionally, it's important to contact your doctor immediately if any of the following occur:
- You don't have a period for 90 days and you're not pregnant
- Your periods vary wildly after having been regular
- Your period lasts for more than a week
- You bleed heavily, using more than one pad or tampon in less than two hours
- You have less than three weeks or more than 35 days between your period
- You have spotting or bleeding throughout your cycle
- You have severe cramps or pain
If your irregular menstrual cycles are not caused by a medical problem, your doctor may suggest birth control pills to help regulate your period. This can make your periods more predictable, can lessen cramping prior to and during your period, can decrease your bleeding, and can even decrease the number of days that you have your period.
For more information about menstrual irregularities, call Jenkins Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine today.
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