The menstrual cycle is a complex process with many factors from different parts of the body at play. And while every woman experiences their period differently, most get through their cycle without any issues, with it starting and finishing around the same time each month, without affecting lifestyle too much.
Menstruation is a complex process with many factors that may cause problems with your cycle. Here is a helpful guide to menstrual disorders to help you understand them a little better.
However, menstrual disorders or menstrual irregularities are common, and can happen at any time around the cycle: before, during and after. These can be quite disruptive and distressing. If you suffer from any kind of menstrual irregularities, be sure to get in touch with your gynecologist.
There are many treatments that are very effective, and sometimes it may be as simple talking through your symptoms and devising a management plan. Let’s take a look at some common menstrual disorders.
Most women experience their periods within the predicted 28 day cycle, but sometimes it can be early and sometimes it can be late, sometimes it goes for longer than seven days and sometimes it may not happen at all.
Irregular periods are common for women in their childbearing years. Often they are related to a minor issue, such as stress, but they can also be the symptom of another condition, so it is important you see your gynecologist if your periods are irregular.
And how do you know if your periods are irregular?
• If it last longer than eight days
• If it is missed three or more times in a row
• If menstrual flow is abnormally heavy (menorrhagia) or light
• If bleeding occurs after sex or in between periods
• If periods are especially painful
What are the medical terms for irregular periods?
• Amenorrhea: periods have stopped completely.
• Oligomenorrhea: periods that are infrequent.
• Dysmenorrhea: periods that are abnormally painful.
• Menorrhagia: periods are abnormally heavy.
There are a number of reasons that periods may become irregular, ranging from lifestyle factors (such as stress or dieting) to medical conditions (such as fibroids or endometriosis). Because of the wide-ranging causes, treatment will vary. Periods also become irregular as menopause approach, and are quite common for women aged 45 to 55.
Read more about irregular periods here.
Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhoea)
Period pain – also known as dysmenorrhoea – is synonymous with the menstrual cycle, however, some women may experience it worse than others.
Primary dysmenorrhoea is what most women with painful periods experience, where there is no underlying condition in the uterus. Pain is caused by contractions of the muscles in the uterus to dislodge the thickened lining. It should only last for the first few days of your period, and should be manageable with pain killers, and other personal management techniques.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused by a condition in or near the uterus, such as endometriosis or adenomyosis. This is more common in older women. Aside from painful periods, there may be other symptoms that indicate a condition, such as heavy bleeding.
As the causes of dysmenorrhoea are quite varied, treatment will depend on the underlying issue. It can be hard to discern whether your periods are abnormally painful, but if normal management methods are ineffective, you should make an appointment with your gynaecologist.
You should also see your gynaecologist if you are experiencing severe pelvic pain, increased vaginal discharge, clots in your menstrual discharge, or pain outside your period.
Read more about painful periods here.
Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia)
The amount of blood lost during menstrual bleeding will differ between women and can fluctuate over the years and at different stages of your life. Heavy periods – also known as menorrhagia – are when blood loss greater than 80ml per period, or when it lasts for more than eight days.
Of course, it is hard to determine whether you are losing more than 80ml at a time, so when it comes to heavy periods, intuition is often your best guide – if you think your bleeding is too heavy, or if it’s impacting your day-to-day life or causing you stress or anxiety then it is important to seek advice.
There are few key symptoms to keep track of:
• If your period is so heavy that it floods your pad or tampon and cannot be contained
• If you need to change your tampon every hour or less
• If bleeding lasts more than eight days
• If you are passing clots of blood larger than a 50c coin
• If you have to get up at night to change your tampon
• If you bleed through clothes or onto bed sheets
Roughly half of heavy periods have no underlying cause, whereas the remaining half may be caused by conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids, or polyps. Again, treatment will depend on the cause, and can range from medication to surgery to interventional radiology.
Read more about heavy periods here.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome – more commonly known as PMS – refers to a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms that many women experience when their period is approach. It is very common, affecting around 75 percent of women. However, roughly 30 to 40 percent of women experience severe symptoms, and sometimes these can be so bad that they begin to affect day-to-day life.
Symptoms of PMS vary greatly, and will be different for everyone. These can range from physical symptoms like bloating and fatigue, to emotional factors like depression and irritability. They typically behind to appear in the week leading up to when your period begins, and will usually go away once it starts.
PMS is a complex condition that studies have shown to be caused by the cyclic hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can have an impact on chemicals in the brain that affect mood (such as serotonin) and other bodily functions.
Studies have also suggested that all women experience PMS differently because some are more sensitive to their normal cyclic hormones than others. If your symptoms are severe enough to impact your daily lifestyle, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your gynecologist.
If you have any questions regarding menstrual disorders or irregularities and would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Dr Brown is one of the most trusted gynacologists in the Hills District and will be more than happy to offer advice and compassionate care in every way possible.