Menstrual Irregularity: When to Seek Help

Dr. Angela Parson of Hampton Roads OB/GYN

As women, we are taught from the moment we get our first menstrual cycle to keep up with our monthly periods. After all, when it doesn’t come on time, there is always the chance that pregnancy is the culprit (at least if you’re sexually active). Many women also view the monthly bleeding as a sign that all parts are functioning correctly.

So when is it time to seek help if your menstrual cycle is increasingly irregular or always has been? This is a loaded question, one that will vary from woman to woman, but here are a 3 scenarios that should help take the mystery out of an irregular cycle and prompt you to make an appointment with an Ob/Gyn or women’s health provider:

  1. If you are post-menopausal (cycle has stopped for 1 year or more), you should seek immediate medical attention to rule out endometrial cancer.
  2. If your cycle has always been irregular and you’re not taking prescribed medication to increase the cycle interval, more than 3 months between cycles could mean you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or other hormonal imbalance.
  3. If your cycle is associated with severe pain or is excessively heavy, there could be a structural problem like fibroids (benign uterine growths).

The list of common reasons for cycle irregularity is diverse, but the 3 previously mentioned scenarios should be investigated sooner rather than later.  After all, most women will have at least 30 years of monthly visits to keep track of and most women will have cycles every 21-35 days. If your cycle pattern is random, painful, or after your cycle has stopped, seek medical advice.

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