What Are Menstrual Problems?

Menstrual cycles often bring about a variety of uncomfortable symptoms leading up to your period. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) encompasses the most common issues, such as mild cramping and fatigue, but the symptoms usually go away when your period begins.

However, other, more serious menstrual problems may also occur. Menstruation that is too heavy or too light, or the complete absence of a cycle, may suggest that there are other issues that are contributing to an abnormal menstrual cycle.

Remember that a “normal” menstrual cycle means something different for every woman. A cycle that’s regular for you may be abnormal for someone else. It’s important to stay in tune with your body and to talk to your doctor if you notice any significant changes to your menstrual cycle.

Different Menstrual Problems

Heavy Periods

Another common menstrual problem is a heavy period. Also called menorrhagia, heavy periods cause you to bleed more than normal. You may also have your period for longer than the average of five to seven days. Menorrhagia is mostly caused by imbalances in hormone levels, especially progesterone and estrogen.

Other causes of heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding include:

Puberty
Vaginal infections
Inflammation of the cervix
Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
Noncancerous uterus tumors (fibroids)
Changes in diet or exercise

Absent Periods

In some cases, women may not get their period. This is called amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when you don’t get your first period by age 16. This may be caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, a congenital defect of the female reproductive system, or a delay in puberty. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when you stop getting your regular periods for six months or more.

Common causes of primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea in teens include:

Anorexia
Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
Ovarian cysts
Sudden weight gain or loss
Stopping birth control
Pregnancy

A missed period could mean that you’re pregnant. If you suspect you may be pregnant, be sure to take a pregnancy test. Drugstore pregnancy tests are the least expensive way to determine whether or not you are pregnant. To get the most accurate results, wait until you have missed your period by at least one day before taking the test.

Painful Periods

Not only can your period be lighter or heavier than normal, but it can also be painful. Cramps are normal during PMS and they also occur when your uterus contracts as your period begins. However, some women experience excruciating pain. Also called dysmenorrhea, extremely painful menstruation is likely linked to an underlying medical problem, such as:

Fibroids
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Abnormal tissue growth outside of the uterus (endometriosis)

Relax yourself to ease painful menstruation

Next time you get painful menstrual cramps, lie down with a heating pad on your abdomen. Then use your fingertips to lightly massage your belly in a circular motion. Drinking warm, noncaffeinated beverages can help, as can taking a warm shower or performing waist-bending exercises or walking.

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