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Video:How to Identify an Abnormal Period

with Dr. Ingrid Rodi

Identifying an abnormal period is important when trying to get pregnant. Watch this About.com video to learn how to identify an abnormal period.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Identify an Abnormal Period

Hi, I'm Dr. Ingrid Rodi and I am a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility with RodiMD.com. Today I am here on behalf of About.com to talk to you about how to identify an abnormal period. 

Signs of a Normal Period

Periods are called menstrual periods because they normally occur once a month. Girls start having periods between 9 and 16 years of age. On average, American girls start having periods at 12 years of age. It is normal for teenagers to have irregular cycles and for the duration of the period to vary. Usually, after about a year or two, the periods become regular. Once a young woman has regular periods, she gets used to her pattern.

That pattern includes the number of days of bleeding. Usually a woman will bleed for three to five days, but two days to seven days is a normal range. Some women will start out with a day or two of spotting; others will have a heavy first day. It is common to experience cramps, headaches, nausea, and occasional vomiting and diarrhea at the time of a period.  The average cycle length is 28 days, but a normal cycle can range from 21 to 35 days.

Abnormalities With Periods

Once the cycle gets either shorter or longer than that, it becomes more likely that the woman is not ovulating normally. Some women experience symptoms before they start their period. These are called premenstrual symptoms or PMS. These symptoms can include breast tenderness, weight gain, cramping, irritability and depression. If the symptoms are mild and they do not affect the woman's ability to live her life, they are considered normal.  If however, they cause an undue amount of distress, the woman should consult her healthcare provider. 

Significance of Abnormal Periods

Why does it matter if the period is regular? The first reason is that an abnormal period may be a sign that not all is as it should be. A woman with irregular cycles, or even absent cycles might have other medical problems such as an under- or overactive thyroid. The most common reason for a change in the menstrual cycle is pregnancy. A woman who might be pregnant should consult her healthcare provider as soon as possible. There are many treatments for abnormal periods.

Abnormal Periods for Older Women

What recommendations a woman will receive depends on what her symptoms are.  A woman who has experienced regular cycles for her entire reproductive life will start noticing changes in her 40s and 50s. This time in a woman's reproductive life is called the perimenopause. A woman will have started the menopausal phase of her life when she has not had a period for one year.

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