Periods are different for every woman. While subtle changes are normal, major changes in flow, frequency, and color could signal health concerns. Many factors can change a woman’s period, including hormones, weight gain or loss, diet, medications, and certain health conditions. When signifigant changes begin to occur, a woman needs to talk to her gynecologist to determine the underlying cause.
What Is the Menstrual Cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a monthly cycle that leads a woman’s reproductive system through the process of preparing for pregnancy. Each month, one or both of the ovaries releases an egg. During this time, hormonal changes begin to occur in the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. When the egg does not get fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds, and this is a period.
For most women, menstrual flow occurs every 21-35 days. Periods can last 2-5 days, but this varies among women. When a female first begins menses, it is normal for her periods to last longer than usual. As women age, their periods become shorter.
What Is Normal?
Most women have a fairly predictable menstrual cycle each month. Some women have heavier flows, while others have lighter. In most cases, what is normal for you is considered normal. When changes begin to occur suddenly, there could be some health issues present that need to be addressed.
What Does Your Period Say About Your Health?
Some aspects of a period can offer information about your health. If you use any hormonal birth control or have an IUD in place, you cannot rely on your period for reliable health information.
Heavy Menstrual Flow
A heavy flow means you need to change your pad or tampon about every hour. Heavy menstrual flow may also include blood clots that are larger than a quarter. For some women, a heavy flow could mean hormone issues, reproductive organ problems, pelvic inflammatory disease, or even some blood disorders. As many as one in ten women with heavy menstrual flow have a blood disorder.
Heavy Flow with Fatigue
It is normal to feel more tired than usual during your period. With heavy flow can come pronounced fatigue. If you become short of breath, pale, feel weak, and have a rapid pulse during periods of heavy menstrual flow, talk to your doctor right away.
When most women skip a period, they are pregnant, but this is not always the case. Hormonal imbalances, weight loss, stress, and some medications can cause a woman to skip her period. If you skip your period three months in a row, contact your doctor.
For some females, frequent periods are normal, especially when they have only begun menses within a few months. It takes a couple of years for a female to get into a normal menstrual routine. If your periods frequently begin less than 24 days apart, it is important to talk with your doctor.
Spotting Between Periods
Some women spot a little during ovulation, and this is normal for them. Spotting between periods can be caused by hormonal imbalances, sexually transmitted diseases, growths in the uterus, birth control pills, and pregnancy. Since there can be multiple causes for why your period stops and starts, it is wise to talk with your doctor and have a pelvic exam.
Routine Pelvic Exams Are Important
Since some changes in your period can signal problems with your reproductive health, it is a good idea to get a pelvic exam. Even when there are no problems with your period, a yearly pelvic exam will keep your health protected.
Periods can seem to change with very little warning. Changes are most commonly seen within the first two years of menses, with hormonal imbalances, and as a woman progresses closer to menopause. Talk to your doctor today if you have noticed bothersome changes to your period.