What is menstrual disorder?
Menstrual cycles often come with a variety of uncomfortable symptoms leading up to your period.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) encompasses the most common issues, such as mild cramping and fatigue, but the symptoms usually go away when your period begins. More serious menstrual problems may also occur. Menstruation that is too heavy or too light, or the complete absence of a cycle, may suggest that there are other issues that are contributing to an abnormal menstrual cycle.
Remember that a “normal” menstrual cycle means something different for every woman. A cycle that’s regular for you may be abnormal for someone else. It’s important to stay in tune with your body and to talk to your doctor if you notice any significant changes to your menstrual cycle.
There are several different menstrual problems that you may experience.
How common is menstrual disorder?
Menstrual disorder is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of menstrual disorder?
The common symptoms of menstrual disorder are:
PMS occurs one to two weeks before your period begins. Some women experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Others experience few symptoms or even none at all. PMS can cause:
- Breast soreness
- Food cravings
- Excessive fatigue
- Feelings of stress
- Mild stomach cramps
Another common menstrual problem is a heavy period. Also called menorrhagia, heavy periods cause you to bleed more than normal. You may also have your period for longer than the average of five to seven days.
In some cases, women may not get their period. This is called amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when you don’t get your first period by age 16. This may be caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, a congenital defect of the female reproductive system, or a delay in puberty. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when you stop getting your regular periods for six months or more.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes menstrual disorder?
Menstrual disorder can have many different causes, including:
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding. A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Breast-feeding typically delays the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
- Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising. Eating disorders – such as anorexia nervosa – extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt menstruation.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with this common endocrine system disorder may have irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid – called follicles – located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
- Premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. Women who have premature ovarian failure – also known as primary ovarian insufficiency – might have irregular or occasional periods for years.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This infection of the reproductive organs can cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. They can cause heavy menstrual periods and prolonged menstrual periods.
What increases my risk for menstrual disorder?
There are many risk factors for menstrual disorder, such as:
- Age plays a key role in menstrual disorders. Girls who start menstruating at age 11 or younger are at higher risk for severe pain, longer periods, and longer menstrual cycles. Adolescents may develop amenorrhea before their ovulation cycles become regular. Women who are approaching menopause (perimenopause) may also skip periods. Occasional episodes of heavy bleeding are also common as women approach menopause.
- Being either excessively overweight or underweight can increase the risk for dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea.
- Menstrual cycles and flow. Longer and heavier menstrual cycles are definitely associated with painful cramps.
- Pregnancy history. Women who have had a higher number of pregnancies are at increased risk for menorrhagia. Women who have never given birth have a higher risk of dysmenorrhea, while women who first gave birth at a young age are at lower risk.
- Smoking can increase the risk for heavier periods.
- Physical and emotional stress may block the release of luteinizing hormone, causing temporary amenorrhea.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is menstrual disorder diagnosed?
Your doctor will want to know about your symptoms and for how long you’ve been experiencing them. It may help to come prepared with notes on your menstrual cycle, how regular it is, and any symptoms you have been experiencing. Your doctor can use these notes to help figure out what is abnormal.
In addition to a physical exam, your doctor will likely do a pelvic exam. A pelvic exam allows your doctor to assess your reproductive organs and to determine if your vagina or cervix is inflamed. A Pap smear will also be performed to rule out the possibility of cancer or other underlying conditions.
Blood tests can help determine whether hormonal imbalances are causing your menstrual problems. If you suspect that you may be pregnant, your doctor or nurse practitioner will order a blood or urine pregnancy test during your visit.
Other tests your doctor may use to help diagnose the source of your menstrual problems include:
- Endometrial biopsy (used to extract a sample of your uterine lining that can be sent for further analysis)
- Hysteroscopy (a small camera is inserted into your uterus to help your doctor find any abnormalities)
- Ultrasound (used to produce a picture of your uterus)
How is menstrual disorder treated?
The type of treatment will depend on what’s causing the problems with your menstrual cycle. Birth control pills can relieve symptoms of PMS, as well as regulate heavy flows. If a heavier or lighter than normal flow is related to a thyroid or other hormonal disorder, you may experience more regularity once you start hormone replacements.
Dysmenorrhea may be hormone related, but you may also require further medical treatment to address the problem. For example, antibiotics are used to treat pelvic inflammatory disease.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage menstrual disorder?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with menstrual disorder:
- Dietary factors: Making dietary adjustments starting about 14 days before a period may help some women with certain mild menstrual disorders, such as cramping. The general guidelines for a healthy diet apply to everyone; they include eating plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding saturated fats and commercial junk foods. Limiting salt (sodium) may help reduce bloating. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake may also be beneficial.
- Preventing and treating anemia
- Exercise may help reduce menstrual pain.
- Sexual activity. There have been reports that orgasm reduces the severity of menstrual cramps.
- Applying Heat. Applying a heating pad to the abdominal area, or soaking in a hot bath, can help relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.
- Menstrual hygiene. Change tampons every 4 – 6 hours. Avoid scented pads and tampons; feminine deodorants can irritate the genital area. Douching is not recommended because it can destroy the natural bacteria normally present in the vagina. Bathing regularly is sufficient.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Menstrual disorders. http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/menstrual-disorders. Accessed 26 Feb, 2017.
Menstrual Problems. http://www.healthline.com/health/menstrual-problems#Overview1. Accessed 26 Feb, 2017.
Menstrual cycle: What’s normal, what’s not. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186?pg=1. Accessed 26 Feb, 2017.
Review Date: March 11, 2017 | Last Modified: March 11, 2017