Abnormal Menstrual Cycles and Irregular Periods

Abnormal Menstrual Cycles and Irregular Periods

Menstrual disorders such as irregular menstrual periods can interfere with getting pregnant by make it difficult to predict ovulation. Heavy bleeding can cause anemia, or low red blood cell count, and painful periods can affect a woman’s ability to carry out normal activities.

Dysmenorrhea: Pain During Menstrual Periods-Menstrual Cycles

Up to five million women in North America have pain from severe cramping during their menstrual periods. Menstrual pain can be caused by chemical changes related to the menstrual cycle, or from abnormalities such as endometriosis or fibroids.

Many of the symptoms that occur in menstrual cycles are caused by the release of prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that are released from the endometrium (uterine lining) and can cause smooth muscle (like uterine muscle) to painfully contract, causing muscle spasms and cramping. Some women release more prostaglandins than others, and have more cramping. Prostaglandins can also cause diarrhea and nausea during menstruation. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen block the release of prostaglandins and help decrease pain.

Women with endometriosis have endometrium tissue outside of the uterus, attached to reproductive tissues where it’s not normally found. This tissue bleeds during the menstrual cycle, causing pain, inflammation and eventually painful scar tissue.

Heavy Bleeding During Menstrual Periods(Menorrhagia)

Heavy bleeding can lower iron stores and result in ongoing fatigue. Heavy periods are more common in women with fibroids, polycystic ovary disease (PCOS) and women who are overweight. Correcting the causes can help reduce heavy menstrual flow.

Irregular Periods, Periods More Than 35 Days Apart-Abnormal Menstrual Cycles

Cycles that are further than 35 days apart may indicate a problem with ovulation, or a lack of ovulation (anovulation). Long or missed menstrual cycles can be caused by the following:

  • endometriosis
  • high prolactin levels
  • polycystic ovary disease(PCOS)
  • abnormal thyroid levels
  • premature ovarian failure

Weight change, stress and extreme levels of exercise can also cause anovulation. Finding the cause is essential to fixing the problem. Women who aren’t ovulating will be unable to get pregnant.

Amenorrhea (Absence of Periods) Anovulation-Abnormal Menstrual Cycles

No periods at all usually means a woman isn’t ovulating. Women who aren’t ovulating will be unable to get pregnant. Amenorrhea in women who have previously had menstrual cycles is usually caused by hormone imbalances. Women who have not started menstruating by the age of 16 may have structural problems preventing menstrual flow or hormonal problems. In either case, seeing a gynecologist is a good start to finding the problem.

Short Menstrual Cycles and Fertility Problems-Abnormal Menstrual Cycles

Short menstrual cycles, having a period every 25 days or less, can be related to a fertility problem. Short cycles can be caused by one of two things:

  • a short follicular phase (the time before ovulation)
  • a short luteal phase (the time between ovulation and the start of the next menstrual cycle).

Short follicular phases may not give the egg a chance to grow and mature, and may also result in the uterine lining not being developed enough for an embryo to implant. A short luteal phase may mean that the corpus luteum, the remnant of the follicle the egg developed in, isn’t producing enough progesterone. Progesterone is essential for the growth and implantation of the placenta. A fertility specialist may be able to help with both short follicular phases and short luteal phases. Shortened follicular phases may be caused by premature ovarian failure; they’re also common as women age.

Bleeding in Between Periods; Irregular Bleeding, Spotting

Bleeding between periods can indicate a hormonal problem, or a problem within the uterus, like fibroids (benign growths on the uterine wall) polyps (small fleshy growths the cervix or endometrium). Cervical infections can also cause cervical bleeding, which may look like abnormal menstrual bleeding. Removing the growths, or treating an infection, generally leads to a disappearance of the spotting.

Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding: Curing the Bleeding by Finding the Cause

Women having abnormal menstrual cycles should see their gynecologists. Many, if not most, of menstrual cycles abnormalities can be cured or at least improved once they’re diagnosed by a doctor.


Merck Manual Online Medical Information

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