A woman's body naturally prepares for pregnancy roughly every 28 days. The cycle can be as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days and some women can have irregular cycles that vary between these two extremes.
What is normal for one woman may cause another woman alarm. But there are some menstrual disorders that can cause irregular or abnormal bleeding or cause undue pain and discomfort, including severe cramping. The cessation of menstruation can also be a health issue that needs to be addressed by your doctor at Florida Hospital Celebration Health.
Most doctors consider the normal blood flow to be in the range of 2 tablespoons to 1/3 of a cup. Anything outside of that range could be considered abnormal.
Painful menstrual cramps
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps. In most cases, they are dull, cramping pains located in the lower abdomen. They are worse just before and during your period. However, for some women, the pain can be bad enough that it is disruptive. The underlying cause of these painful cramps can be any number of things. They often disappear after the birth of a first child, but if they continue they can be a sign of endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Women may experience a radiating pain in the lower back or thigh. In severe cases, they may feel nauseas, vomit, sweat, become dizzy and have loose stools.
If the pain has become bad enough that your routine is disrupted for several days a month or if you are older and suddenly started experiencing severe cramps, you'll want to make an appointment with your doctor.
Another fairly common menstrual issue is menorrhagia. This is an excessive amount of blood flowing during your period. This can be more than the average 1/3 cup and last 8 to 10 days. One of the ways to know if you have excessive bleeding is to keep a journal of your menstrual cycle, noting any irregularities, specifically unusual bleeding. Be sure to note the start and end date, the rate of flow and the presence of any pain, including when it gets worse. There are numerous factors that can affect your blood flow.
You should see your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Your period suddenly becomes erratic after being regular for a long time.
- It stops totally for longer than 90 days.
- You are bleeding for more than seven days or you are soaking through a pad or tampon every hour or two.
- Your periods are less than 21 or more than 35 days apart.
- You bleed or spot between periods.
- The pain is severe enough to become debilitating.
- You have a fever and feel sick after using tampons.
If you experience any bleeding episodes after menopause you should visit your doctor at Florida Hospital Celebration Health. There can be many causes, including stress, weight gain and hormone imbalances. Approximately 20 to 30% of menopausal women experience bleeding, even after going a year without a period.
While it can be related to natural processes, your doctor will want to rule out other possibilities, including hyperplasia of the uterus and uterine cancer. However remote these may be, it's important to make a timely diagnosis.
Your doctor will want to perform a pelvic exam and conduct a few tests just to rule out any serious problems and then develop a treatment plan that addresses any other problems, such as emotional stress, hormonal imbalances, weight gain or nutritional deficiencies that could be causing postmenopausal bleeding.