Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 20:03
Menstruation is a highly complex cycle governed by your hormones. Your menstrual cycle is unique: what is regular for you might be abnormal for someone else, just as light or heavy periods vary from woman to woman. Fortunately, most menstrual problems are minor and easily treatable.
Irregular Periods (Oligomenorrhoea) Overview
A woman's first periods are likely to be unpredictable in timing and length. After a couple of years most women settle into a regular cycle, but erratic periods often become the norm again around the menopause.
What is it?
Many women have a menstrual cycle that varies from the 28 days average. A cycle that is routinely shorter or longer is not seen as a problem. However irregularity may be caused by a hormonal imbalance such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
Your menstrual cycle will be considered irregular if you experience:
- Periods occurring more frequently, for example twice per month.
- Periods occurring with no real pattern.
See your doctor if you are concerned by any irregularities in your menstrual cycle or if your periods are very frequent or very infrequent.
If irregularities persist, or if you develop other symptoms or problems consult your doctor.
You may be prescribed an oral contraceptive, or if you are approaching the menopause you may be offered hormone replacement therapy.
Absence of Periods (Amenorrhoea) Overview
Amenorrhoea is the lack of periods in women who normally menstruate. The most common cause of absent periods is pregnancy. Amenorrhoea can also be a side effect of illness, stress, over-exercising or extreme weight loss.
What are the symptoms of Amenorrhoea?
You should see your doctor if you havenâ€™t started having periods by the age of 16 or if you have missed three periods in a row.
Diagnosis of Amenorrhoea
Once pregnancy or menopause have been ruled out your doctor may check you for hormonal disorders. You may have a blood test and an abdominal (with a full bladder) ultrasound scan, or a transvaginal (via the vagina) scan, in which case you will be asked to empty your bladder first.
Treatment Options For Amenorrhoea
You may be given hormonal treatments to restart your periods. Talk to your doctor about possible side-effects.
How Can I Help Myself
Keep a check on your lifestyle and avoid excessive exercising or dieting.
Painful Periods Dysmenorrhoea
There are two types of painful periods: primary dysmenorrhoea which occurs once ovulation is established; and secondary dysmenorrhoea, which affects women who have not had period pain before.
What is Dysmenorrhoea?
Primary dysmenorrhoea is linked to a rise in natural chemicals in the body at ovulation. Secondary dysmenorrhoea is usually a sign of an underlying disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Dysmenorrhoea?
Pain begins just before or just after bleeding starts and may be:
- Wavelike cramps in the lower abdomen
- Aches in the lower back and legs
- A dragging sensation in the pelvic area.
See your doctor if period pains become too uncomfortable.
If you have developed painful periods see your doctor to make sure that you do not have a reproductive disorder. You may have an internal examination, cervical swabs taken, and possibly an ultrasounds scan. In addition you may have an examination by laparoscopy.
Treatment Options for Dysmenorrhoea
Drug treatment often relieves the pain. Ask your doctor about any possible side-effects. Your doctor may suggest ; anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, antispasmodic drugs, the combined oral contraceptive.
How Can I Help Myself?
Taking over-the-counter painkillers may be enough, If not try placing a covered hot water bottle on your tummy for extra relief.