A little variation is normal within the menstrual cycle, but some situations may warrant intervention when it comes to menstrual health.
Abnormal uterine bleeding
This is when bleeding occurs outside the normal cycle, such as during sex, between periods, after menopause or for extended periods lasting more than seven days. Abnormal bleeding may be caused by:
- Hormonal changes associated with beginning menstruation or menopause
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine polyp or growth
This is when women don’t get a period. Young women 16 years old who have never gotten a period, or women who haven’t had a period for 90 days and aren’t in menopause, may have this condition. Amenorrhea may result from:
- Eating disorders, extreme weight gain or weight loss, and obesity
- Excessive exercising
- Hormonal issues such as thyroid disorder or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Other illnesses
This is when periods cause pain or distress for women. While some premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are common, dysmenorrhea is a problem when heavy bleeding and painful cramps become debilitating. Dysmenorrhea may stem from:
- Endometriosis, a condition when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Intrauterine devices
- Uterine polyps
For any of these conditions, women should consult a gynecologist as soon as a pattern of abnormality has been established, typically about three cycles or 90 days.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
TSS is a rare, sometimes fatal condition caused by bacteria. Tampon use can increase the risk for TSS, but those risks can be lessened by:
- Changing tampons every four to eight hours
- Following tampon package insertion directions
- Choosing the lowest effective absorbency tampon
- Alternating between tampons and pads
TSS symptoms include fever of 102 or higher, vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, dizziness, rash similar to sunburn, sore throat and bloodshot eyes. See a physician promptly if you experience these symptoms.
Plenty of home solutions make periods more bearable. Taking a hot shower or bath; eating smaller, more frequent meals; or participating in yoga, meditation or regular exercises—such as brisk walking or calisthenics—can help alleviate menstrual pain. Supplements thought to be effective in the treatment of PMS symptoms include calcium, magnesium, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E.