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Menstrual Irregularities

Menstrual irregularities describes problems with a woman's menstrual cycle. 

The menstrual cycle is the natural changes that occur in a woman’s body as it gets ready for the chance of a pregnancy each month. Menstruation is the part of the menstrual cycle during which there is bleeding from the vagina. This stage is called the period or menstrual period.

Menstrual irregularities or problems include:

When not caused by pregnancy, menstrual irregularities are usually a sign of a larger condition or problem.  There are many conditions that can cause menstrual irregularities.

Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea occurs when a woman does not get her period by age 16, or when she stops getting her period for at least three months and is not pregnant.

Amenorrhea is not a disease. Instead, it is a symptom of another condition.  Possible causes can include moderate or excessive exercising, eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa), physical or psychological stress, tumors, and hormonal problems. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also experience amenorrhea.

It is important for you to see your health care provider to determine the cause of amenorrhea. Treatment for amenorrhea depends on the underlying cause. Sometimes lifestyle changes can help if weight, stress, or extreme physical activity is causing the amenorrhea. Other times, medications and oral contraceptives can help the problem.

Oligomenorrhea

This term refers to infrequent menstrual periods, or having a period only now and then. Like amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea is not a disease itself, but is a symptom of a larger condition. For example, many women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have oligomenorrhea.

Premature ovarian failure (POF)

Premature ovarian failure describes a stop in the normal functioning of the ovaries in a woman younger than age 40. Women with premature ovarian failure may not have periods or may get them irregularly.  Although getting pregnant is difficult for women with premature ovarian failure, it may still be possible.

There is no proven treatment to make a woman’s ovaries work normally again. However, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) gives women the estrogen and other hormones their bodies are not making and can help women have regular periods and lower their risk for osteoporosis.

Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are the most common, non-cancerous tumors in women of childbearing age.  Most women with fibroids do not have problems with fertility and can get pregnant. But some women with fibroids may not be able to get pregnant naturally.

Women who have uterine fibroids but show no symptoms may not need any treatment. Some women with fibroids have heavy menstrual periods, and some may bleed in between periods. Medications can often offer relief from many of the symptoms of fibroids, such as pain, and can even slow or stop their growth. There are also several types of surgery that can remove the fibroids.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when tissues that usually grow inside a woman’s uterus grow on the outside instead. Endometriosis may cause pain before and during the first few days of the menstrual period. About 30-50% of women with endometriosis are infertile, making it one of the top three causes for female infertility.  Women with endometriosis may also have very heavy periods.

There are several ways to treat pain, including pain medication, hormone therapy, and surgery.

There are also some treatments for infertility associated with endometriosis. In vitro fertilization (IVF) often works to improve fertility in women with the condition. Hormone treatments and surgery offer other infertility treatment options.

Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea refers to painful periods, including severe menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps in teens are caused by too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. Most teens with dysmenorrhea do not have a serious disease, even though the cramps can be severe. In older women, the pain is sometimes caused by a disease or condition such as uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis. ??

For some women, using a heating pad or taking a warm bath helps ease their cramps. Some over-the-counter pain relievers can also help with these symptoms. They include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol), ketoprofen (Orudis), Naproxen (Aleve).

Your health care provider might recommend birth control pills or a birth control shot to make periods less painful.

If these medicines don’t relieve your pain or the pain interferes with work or school, you should see a doctor.  Treatment depends on what’s causing the problem and how severe it is.


Reference: National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development