While many women experience a very regular period, approximately every 28 days, some may have a period that’s less predictable. While irregular bleeding or a missed period can be alarming, it isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong. The term irregular bleeding is used to describe menstrual bleeding that occurs between periods, after sexual intercourse, or a period that features unexpectedly heavy or light bleeding. Some women may experience irregular bleeding after menopause. While it’s normal to be alarmed by irregular bleeding or missing a period, the truth is that this isn’t necessarily a sign that anything is wrong. To help educate our readers about irregular bleeding, the board-certified gynecologists at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett have answered a few common questions on the subject.
When is a period considered irregular?
An irregular period can refer to a missed, early or late cycle. Typically, a menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, plus or minus seven days. We consider menstrual bleeding irregular if it occurs more frequently than every 21 days or lasts longer than 8 days. One way to help determine whether your menstruation schedule is irregular is to count the days from the last day of your previous period to the first day of your next. Repeat this for 3-6 months to detect a regular versus irregular pattern.
Is irregular bleeding more common at certain ages?
Irregular bleeding can happen at any point in a woman’s life, especially in the months/years after menarche, or a woman’s first period, or as she nears menopause. However, it can be a more regular occurrence depending on a woman’s age. During the earliest stage of menopause (known as the perimenopause period), it’s common for the number of days between periods to fluctuate. It’s also normal during this time to miss periods or for bleeding to be lighter or heavier than usual.
How is irregular bleeding diagnosed?
Properly diagnosing the cause of irregular bleeding will require a visit with your board-certified gynecologist to discuss your medical history and the state of your menstrual health. We recommend keeping track of your menstrual cycle (specifically the dates, length, and quality of your period) in the time leading up to your appointment if possible. We will conduct a physical exam, blood tests to monitor blood count and hormone levels, and potentially run tests for certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or infections.
Irregular bleeding may not indicate a significant health risk, but that does not mean that women shouldn’t take it seriously. If you experience irregular bleeding and would like to discuss your cycle with a professional, please contact Dr. Kristine Gould at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett today. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more news, tips, and info on our upcoming health and wellness events.