Abnormal Periods? What Your Menstrual Flow Says About Your Health
Are you concerned that your period is not normal? Perhaps you’re wondering: “What is an abnormal period?”
Maybe you’ve compared notes with some of your friends, and you’ve noticed that you have heavy bleeding from periods, compared to your friends who only experience light spotting.
The truth is, your period holds the key to your gynecological health, and understanding what constitutes an abnormal period enables you to accurately evaluate your menstrual health.
“It’s important that you are familiar with your own period, including the regularity of your cycle as well as the color of your blood, in order for us to help you safeguard your reproductive health,” said Dr. Ann Miller.
Your Period: What Are Abnormal Periods?
A girl’s first period can start as early as 9 years old or as late as 16 years old. It’s not unusual for these periods to be irregular for the first 3 years.
How Long Does a Period Last?
A typical period comes every 24 to 38 days. It can last up to 8 days.
Perimenopause is another point in life when the time between periods may be irregular. Perimenopause typically begins in the late 40s; it is the time immediately before periods stop altogether.
Your Period: When Bleeding is Not Normal
If you are bleeding between periods or after sex, schedule an appointment with us so we can determine the cause.
Obviously, any signs of bleeding while you are pregnant should be taken very seriously—schedule an appointment with us immediately.
What Do the Different Colors of Menstrual Blood Mean?
There’s usually some variation in the color of blood leaving your body, and for the most part, this shouldn’t cause any alarm.
Black or Brown Blood
Black or brown blood indicates that it’s taken this blood more time to leave the body. It’s not unusual to have brown blood at the end or even the beginning of your period. It generally indicates a slow flow.
If you’ve had a baby, you may experience brown blood the first four to six weeks after delivery. This is called lochia. It may start heavy and later change to a pinkish color.
This frequently occurs if the blood from your period mixes with cervical fluid. It’s most likely seen at the beginning or end of the period.
Bright Red Blood
This indicates a heavy flow of fresh blood, and there may be various shades and variations of the color as your period progresses.
If you’re experiencing gray discharge, please contact us as this can be a sign of a vaginal infection.
What Is Considered an Abnormally Heavy Period?
Granted, some women have heavier periods than others, but there are still some important health indicators you should watch for.
Your flow is too heavy if you bleed through one or more pads or tampons every one to two hours.
Your period should never be so heavy that it interferes with your ability to do daily activities. Many women with menorrhagia, the medical term for abnormally heavy periods, may actually feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Other indicators of menorrhagia include:
- Feeling tired or faint—these could be signs of anemia
- Periods that last longer than eight days
- Passing menstrual blood clots larger than 50 cent pieces
- Having difficulty breathing during or after your period
What Causes Heavy, Abnormal Periods?
Menorrhagia may be caused by:
- Hormone imbalances
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine Cancer
- Certain Medications
Another possible cause is adenomyosis. In this condition, endometrial glands are embedded in your uterine muscle. This can cause excessive bleeding and very painful periods.
What Causes Irregular Periods?
Irregular or abnormal periods are very common, and if you have them, you should keep a record of when it occurs, along with details about the flow. This helps us during your appointment, as it will enable us to find the underlying cause.
Causes can include:
- Some antidepressants
- Hormone imbalances
- Weight changes (from surgery, change in diet or exercise, or hormonal)
In addition, you may be surprised to learn that stress is often a cause of irregular or even skipped periods. However, if you are skipping periods and are not pregnant you should schedule an appointment with us.
How to Get Rid of Period Cramps
Some women have abnormally painful periods.
There are many ways you can help ease the pain of period cramps. We go into greater detail about them in an earlier blog post on painful periods. To summarize, some of the best answers to how to get rid of period cramps include:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medication such as Motrin
- Taking hot baths
- Placing a hot water bottle over the abdomen
- Reducing stress
- Avoiding drinking (alcohol can often make cramps worse)
- Taking hormonal medications such as birth control pills
You Don’t Have to Deal with Menstruation Problems or Abnormal Periods
In many cases, treating menstrual problems is very straightforward. You should not have to consistently deal with flow that is so heavy it interrupts your day-to-day life, or cramps so bad that you’re unable to work.
If you’re seeing us for menstruation problems, it helps to keep track of your period, how long it lasts, and the type of flow you have. This will help us treat you and create an individual treatment plan tailored for you.
Our health care team has decades of experience helping women throughout Raleigh, Chapel Hill and the Triangle area. See why we were chosen as one of the INDY! Picks for Best Practice in the Triangle.
Usually, we can easily schedule an appointment for you within a week or two weeks. Contact us. We welcome the opportunity to serve you.
For more than 40 years, Chapel Hill OBGYN has served patients in the Triangle area, sharing the joy of little miracles and supporting them during challenges. Our board-certified physicians and certified nurse midwives bring together the personal experience and convenience of a private practice with the state-of-the-art resources found at larger organizations. To schedule an appointment, please contact us for more information.