Changes or irregularities in the menstrual cycle can be an indicator of minor problems or even very serious health issues. In order to help women understand what is going on, it is important to track periods just in case there is a missed period, spotting between periods, unusual bleeding, or if ovulation needs to be monitored. This way, it is easy to tell Dr. Binford and her Austin gynecological team when irregularities occur and what the symptoms are so that the proper treatment can be prescribed.

Normal Irregularities

While menstruation comes in regular cycles, periods can become irregular and change course. Normal irregularities in the menstrual cycle that occur when ovulation is not taking place include:

• First period (menarch): Periods may be irregular at first until hormones are balanced and a regular cycle is established.
• After childbirth, miscarriage or abortion: Hormones readjust resulting in irregularities that are corrected after a few cycles.
• Prior to menopause: Menstruation ceases due to depletion of estrogen.

Abnormal Menstrual Irregularities

Common conditions can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, such as:

• Spotting: Light bleeding between periods
• Amenorrhea: Missing menstrual periods for three months in a row, girls who have not had a period by age 15, pregnancy, or hormonal changes or imbalances
• Oligomenorrhea: Menstrual cycles lasting longer than 35 days, or having less than 12 per year
• Polymenorrhea: Periods that occur more often than normal, or having more than 12 per year
• Dysmenorrhea: Excess pain and cramping during periods
• Menorrhagia: Heavier than normal blood flow

Causes of Menstrual Irregularities

Menstrual cycles vary in women and in different stages of life. Abnormal bleeding or absence of periods may be caused by simple conditions such as monthly ovulation, puberty, or perimenopause.

Other causes are:
• Medications, including birth control pills and illegal drugs
• Emotional stress or shock
• Hormonal imbalance
• Pregnancy or breast-feeding
• Sexually-transmitted diseases
• Endometriosis
• Infections
• Fibroid tumors or polyps
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
• Vaginal, cervical, or uterine cancer
• Females who are extremely athletic or malnourished from anorexia or bulimia
• Obesity

Symptoms of Menstrual Irregularities

Symptoms that are diagnosed and treated early can prevent infertility and other dangerous complications, and symptoms may depend on a pre-existing condition.

Symptoms may include:
• Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
• Painful sexual intercourse or bowel movements
• Heavy periods
• Pelvic cramps
• Burning when urinating
• Inability to get pregnant
• Bleeding during pregnancy
• Fever higher than 101*
• Menopause

Complications

While most symptoms can be easily treated, complications may arise. Women may have adverse reactions to treatment, may develop anemia due to heavy bleeding, tubal pregnancies, terminal cancer, or hemorrhaging. Austin women with irregularities and changes in their menstrual cycles should see Dr. Binford and the Balcones team to avoid complications and to seek the treatment that is right for them.

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