Amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, menorrhagia, and dysmenorrhea are the four most common types of menstrual problems. Here’s an easy-to-understand description of each, plus a few things that can make your period irregular.
Are your periods a pain in the patootie? Welcome to the club. But you don’t have to be a lifelong member of the “menstrual problems” club for women! Why? Because if you can identify the type of menstrual problem you have, you’re closer to finding the best remedy. Menstrual cramps, unpredictable periods, and heavy bleeding are common types of menstrual problems – and they don’t just affect your daily life. Menstrual problems can even affect your fertility levels.
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If you see menstruation as gross or unfeminine, it’s time to change your perspective. Here’s what you need to know about getting your period…
“In man, the shedding of blood is always associated with injury, disease, or death,” said Estelle Ramey, who was an endocrinologist at Georgetown University. “Only the female half of humanity was seen to have the magical ability to bleed profusely and still rise phoenix-like each month from the gore.” We women are amazing, aren’t we?
If you’re not rising phoenix-like each month – magic! – then you’re not alone. Most women cope with some type of menstruation problem or PMS.
4 Most Common Types of Menstrual Problems
The average age for a girl to get her first period is age 12 in the United States (I was 11 years old when I got mine. How old were you?). Even though age 12 is the most common age to start menstruating, it doesn’t mean all girls get their periods at the same age. A girl can start her period anytime between the ages of 8 and 15. Most of the time, a girl’s first period starts about two years after her breasts first start to develop.
Getting your period is a cause for celebration! That’s why I wrote 9 Gift Ideas for Girls Getting Their First Period 🙂
Here are the symptoms and solutions of the four most common menstrual problems for women.
1. Painful periods or dysmenorrhea
“Primary dysmenorrhea is linked to a rise of natural chemicals in the body at ovulation, which can cause pain,” writes Mary Jane Minkin, MD, in Women’s Health For Life. “Secondary dysmenorrhea is a sign of an underlying disorder.” Secondary dysmenorrhea affects women who’ve never menstruated before.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods – including severe menstrual cramps. Period cramps in teens are caused by too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. Most teens who have painful periods and crams don’t have a serious disease, even though the cramps can really hurt! In older women, the pain is sometimes caused by a disease or condition such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include aching in your lower back or legs, cramps in your abdomen, or a dragging sensation in your pelvis. For some women, using a heating pad or taking a warm bath helps ease their cramps. Some over-the-counter pain medicines can also help with these symptoms.
Over-the-counter pain relief medications for painful periods:
In both teens and women nearing menopause, hormonal changes can cause long and sometimes painful periods – as well as irregular menstrual cycles. Even if the cause is hormonal changes, you may be able to get treatment. However, keep in mind that hormonal changes can occur with other serious health problems such as uterine fibroids, polyps, or even cancer. See your doctor if you have any abnormal, heavy, or unusually painful bleeding.
Endometriosis is a reproductive disorder that commonly causes painful menstrual periods. Fibroids are another health issue that doesn’t necessarily affect fertility, but is definitely a common type of menstrual problem (I know, because I have fibroids!). The only way to know for sure if you have endometriosis or fibroids – and if they’re causing dysmenorrhea or painful periods – is to get checked by a doctor, gynecologist, or other health care provider for women. This menstrual problem could lead to infertility or problems conceiving; the sooner you know what you’re coping with, the better.
2. Heavy periods or menorrhagia
Hormonal imbalances or uterus disorders could cause heavy periods, but Dr Minkin says the cause isn’t always obvious. If you’re bleeding for seven or more days and it’s not controlled by sanitary napkins or tampons, then you may have menorrhagia. Some blood clots are normal – but large blood clots are a sign of heavy periods.
Heavy periods – menorrhagia – is a common menstrual problem that could lead to anemia, so make sure you get plenty of iron in your diet. Lean meat, leafy green veggies, some cereals, oatmeal, boiled soybeans, molasses, and various beans are good sources of iron. You may need prescription medication to treat heavy periods or anemia – but make sure to tell the doctor you’re trying to get pregnant.
The LENA Menstrual Cup for Heavy Flow is a great option for women with heavy periods who are tired of using tampons and pads. It’s a reusable menstrual cup that collects your monthly blood flow. It’s inserted just like a tampon – and doesn’t have the possibly toxic side effects. LENA offers a leak, odor and sensation-free period. Thousands of women who use menstrual cups for the first time say they will never go back to pads and tampons.
3. Irregular periods or oligomenorrhea
Unpredictable periods are normal the first year of menstruation, and during perimenpause (the years leading up to menopause). Hormone imbalances or disorders can also cause irregular periods, which can affect fertility levels and your chances of conceiving a baby.
Dr Minkin recommends keeping track of your periods, to see if the irregularity is normal for you (because what’s normal for one woman can be abnormal for another). She also says, “Fortunately, most menstrual problems are minor and easily treatable.”
Abnormal bleeding is a common menstrual problem, and can have many causes. Your gynecologist or doctor may start by checking for problems that are most common in your age group – because a woman my age (47) will have different menstrual problems than a woman your age (unless you’re also 47!). Some of the most common causes of menstrual problems aren’t serious and are easy to treat. Others can be more serious…which is why you need to see your doctor if you have problems with your menstrual cycle.
Want regular periods? Read 9 Easy Ways to Make Your Menstrual Cycle Regular.
4. No periods or amenorrhea
If you’ve missed three periods, then you may be dealing with amenorrhea (or a pregnancy! Or perimenopause or menopause). “The most common cause of absent periods is pregnancy,” writes Dr Minkin. “Amenorrhea can also be a side effect of illness, stress, overexercising, or extreme weight loss.”
Amenorrhea simply means “no periods”, and it’s the medical term used to describe the absence of a period in young women who haven’t started menstruating by age 15, and women and girls who haven’t had a period for 90 days or three months.
Causes of amenorrhea can include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Eating disorders
- Excessive exercising
- Serious medical conditions in need of treatment
Missing your menstrual cycle is a problem – even though it can feel liberating not to get your period!
Not getting your period can mean that your ovaries have stopped producing normal amounts of estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that has an important positive effect on your overall health (though too much estrogen can lead to depression, which is why women struggle with depression more than men). Hormonal problems, such as those caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or serious problems with the reproductive organs, may be involved.
It’s important to talk to a doctor if you have this menstrual problem. If you’re not getting your period, then you’re not ovulating or releasing an egg each month…and if you’re not ovulating, then you’ll have problems getting pregnant! See your doctor for help diagnosing and treating amenorrhea – and avoid excessive dieting or exercise.
When Should You See a Doctor About Menstrual Problems?
If you’re struggling with one of the four most common types of period problems on this list, you should see a gynecologist or family doctor.
You should see a doctor about menstrual problems if…
- Your period suddenly stops for more than 90 days.
- Your periods become very irregular after having had regular, monthly cycles.
- Your period occurs more often than every 21 days or less often than every 35 days.
- You get your period for more than 7 days.
- Your period is more heavy than usual, or you’re using more than 1 pad or tampon every 1 to 2 hours.
- You bleed between periods (a common type of menstrual problem).
- You have severe pain or cramps during your period.
Do you suffer from one of these types of menstruation problems – and what are your symptoms and solutions? I welcome your comments below. I can’t give medical advice; you really need to see a gynecologist in person to get the help you need! But, it might help to share what you’re experiencing.
Help With the Most Common Types of Menstrual Problems
The ThermaCare Menstrual Cramp Relief Heat Wraps is one of the best ways to cope with menstrual cramps. The heat on your abdomen helps with blood flow, which eases painful menstrual cramps (a common problem for women!). If you can get the blood flowing smoothly, your cramps may be less problematic.
“These really are great for painful periods,” says Amy. “My two teenagers suffer from pretty bad menstrual cramps and these heating pads have been a wonderful find. Both of my kids have said that when they use these they don’t feel like they have to use ibuprofen or any other pain reliever – and this wrap is so much better for their stomachs. Plus it makes it so they can actually get to school and make it through their day with almost no pain. The heat wraps are nice and discreet. They can wear them under their clothes at school and no one even knows that they are using the heating patches. They provide hours of relief from painful menstrual cramps.”
Yogi Teas Woman’s Moon Cycle Organic Tea is a uniquely crafted herbal formula that helps relieve the minor tensions and discomfort of your monthly menstrual cycle.
The tea makers combine Dong Quai (the most respected restorative herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine) with Chaste Tree Berry and Organic Raspberry Leaf (used for centuries in Europe) to address common PMS symptoms.
Juniper Berry is also included – it’s a traditional herb can help ease the mind and soothe the body. Infuse harmony and comfort into the days of your monthly cycle with a calming cup of Woman’s Moon Cycle – it’s a natural, delicious way to balance your hormones and help you feel strong. Balancing your hormones can help with all types of menstrual problems.
Irregular periods aren't just frustrating; they're warning signs! Getting regular periods will improve your overall health, increase your energy, and help you avoid future health problems.