Irregular periods can be scary, but don't worry. There are lots of reasons why your period may not show up on cue. Remember, it’s always best to talk to your doctor. In the meantime, we’ll try to help you understand some reasons why your period may have changed.
Is it Common?
It’s common to have an irregular period every now and then, especially if you just started your period in the last few years. It takes a few years from when you begin for your periods to be regular.
Have you had your period for many years? Your cycle may get shorter near age 35 and often gets shorter as you near menopause (around age 50). It’s also normal at that age to skip periods or for the amount you bleed to change. Be sure to talk to your doctor to get all the details.
It’s important to know, too, that “irregular” is a personal word: You know your period well enough to know what’s normal for you, so be the best judge yourself.
Causes of Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding
There are a lot of things that can cause heavy bleeding or irregular periods, so you probably need to visit with your doctor to make sure you’re all right.
Your doctor may start by checking for problems most common for your age. A few of the most common causes for irregular periods are:
- Use of some form of intrauterine device (IUD), which is a kind of contraceptive
Fibroids, benign tumors made up of muscular and fibrous tissue
Problems with blood clotting
Polyps, small (usually benign) growths with a stalk that protrude from a mucous membrane (yeah, sounds pretty weird to us too!)
Chronic medical conditions (like thyroid problems, for example)
Unusual bleeding is when you bleed outside of your cycle. Just like heavy bleeding and irregular periods, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your bleeding symptoms if they just seem to come out of the blue.
Is Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Dangerous?
Any heavy bleeding can cause you to lose iron, which will leave you feeling weak and tired. Sometimes you might have dark, thick blood on your heaviest flow days, but if you don’t usually bleed heavily, or it lasts longer than usual, it’s time to head to the doctor. Heavy bleeding beyond what’s usual for you is definitely a medical emergency.
ACOG Pamphlet 95 : Abnormal uterine bleeding