A lot of women wonder whether their cycle is normal and when they should make an appointment with an OB-GYN. Here’s how to tell the difference.
What’s Normal, What’s Not
You count the length of your menstrual cycle from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. An average cycle lasts 28 days. But anywhere between 21 and 35 days is considered normal for adult women. Your period should account for two to seven of those days.
When your cycle falls outside these bounds, it’s considered irregular. Watch for these symptoms:
- Cycles that last for less than 21 days or more than 35 days
- Cycles that suddenly start to vary widely from month to month
- Periods that last for fewer than two day or more than seven days
- Skipped periods when you aren’t pregnant
- Excessively heavy flow during your periods
- Bleeding between periods, called “spotting”
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor. The rise and fall of your hormones control your menstrual cycles. Having irregular cycles might signal a condition affecting your hormone levels. Or it might be a sign of a structural problem with your reproductive organs.
Causes of Irregular Cycles
Young teens and women nearing menopause often have longer periods or unpredictable cycles. Beyond that, several health issues can throw your cycles out of whack. They include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal imbalance in women)
- Hyperprolactinemia (an abnormally high level of the hormone prolactin)
- Eating disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Having irregular periods is more than just a nuisance. If the underlying issue isn’t treated, it may lead to other health problems over time. You may also find it harder to get pregnant, if you’re trying to conceive. So, let your doctor know if your menstrual cycles seem to be off. Depending on the source of the problem, treatment options may include hormonal treatments, other medicines and surgery.
Are you at risk for endometriosis?
Women who have endometriosis experience menstrual pain and bleeding worse than other women. Talk with your doctor if your menstrual pain is extreme.
Dr. Arelis Figueroa, a Crescent City Physicians obstetrician and gynecologist, supports her patients through pregnancy and beyond, helping new moms establish healthy practices that benefit their families. A native of Puerto Rico, she speaks Spanish and English, working with patients whose language barriers might have otherwise kept them from getting care.