Skip to content

    Women's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Period Problems: What They Mean and When to See the Doctor

    Painful Periods
    By
    WebMD Feature

    Aug. 22, 2001 -- The Monthly Bill. The Woman's Curse. The Stop Sign.

    The nicknames we give to the monthly shedding of the uterus lining reflect the troubles it brings, including spotting, heavy bleeding, and cramping. These symptoms can range from merely inconvenient to downright life-changing, depending on how frequent they are and how severe. So how do you know when to grin and bear it and when to see the doctor?

    Recommended Related to Women

    How to Protect Yourself From A Stalker

    By Maura Kelly Recently, a new show called Stalked: Someone's Watching, premiered on the Investigation Discovery channel. Over the course of six episodes, the program recounts the stories of men who relentlessly pursued former partners, or neighbors, or relative strangers - and provides some insight into their twisted motives. The first episode details the relationship between Peggy Klinke and Patrick Kennedy, the man whom she once considered the love of her life - who would eventually kill...

    Read the How to Protect Yourself From A Stalker article > >

    What's Normal and What's Not

    "There are only three times in a woman's life when her periods can be irregular but completely normal," says Jonathan Scher, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Those times are after the first period, or menarche; the first few periods after a miscarriage, abortion, or childbirth; and before menopause. During these times, ovulation is not taking place.

    Â

    If a woman is of reproductive age, any other change in her usual pattern by a week or more either way is abnormal, says Scher. Heavy bleeding, bleeding between periods -- including light "spotting" -- and missing a period should all be reported to a doctor, he advises.

    Endometriosis

    Heavy or painful menstruation can signal endometriosis, a condition that occurs when endometrial tissue, which lines the uterus, begins to form in other areas in the body, such as on the ovaries or between the vagina and the rectum. This can lead to inflammation within the abdominal cavity, which in turn can cause pain, formation of scar tissue, bowel problems, and infertility.

    Â

    'Beth' (not her real name) is a 56-year-old Texan whose life was changed when she began bleeding heavily during her monthly cycle. "When I was in my mid-40s, my period became very heavy," says Beth. "It got to the point where I felt I was chained to the bathroom." Her cycle changed, too. "My periods started lasting eight, nine, or 10 days, and the average time in between shortened from 28 days to 25 to 21," she says. "My body was getting more and more run down." When she consulted her doctor, he diagnosed her condition: endometriosis.

    Â

    A diagnosis of endometriosis is confirmed with a laparoscopy, in which a fiber-optic device is inserted into the abdominal cavity, explains Richard C. Roberson, MD, a family practitioner in Athens, Ga. "In mild cases, nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, or birth control pills can be effective," says Roberson. "In more severe cases, laparoscopic surgery is often used, as well as hysterectomy -- the removal of the uterus."

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    period
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    estrogen gene
    Quiz
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz