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Women's Health

When Your Period Signals a Problem

Heavy periods, no periods, painful periods, spotting -- find out when it's time to call your doctor.
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Your Period Is Heavier Than Normal continued...

You can gauge how heavy your period is by how many tampons or pads you're using. Soaking through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for a few hours in a row is a sign that you're bleeding abnormally heavily.

Taking oral contraceptives can help regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce bleeding. If you use an IUD for contraception, your doctor may choose to insert a specific type of hormone-releasing IUD called Mirena to help reduce bleeding. Another option is a medicine called Lysteda, a pill that helps stop bleeding by increasing blood clotting. 

If the bleeding continues, your ob/gyn might recommend that you have an ultrasound or other test to identify the source of the problem.

You're Bleeding In Between Periods

This is one period problem you shouldn’t ignore. "If you're bleeding between periods, it should be investigated," Loffer says.

Causes can range from something benign -- such as having an irritated sore in the vaginal area or forgetting to take your birth control pill -- to something as serious as an ectopic pregnancy or cancer. Visit your doctor for an exam.

You're Experiencing a Lot of Pain With Your Period

Your period generally isn't the most comfortable time of the month. Most women have cramps as the uterus contracts to shed its lining. Usually the discomfort is mild and it subsides in a day or two.

But for some women, the pain is so intense that they can't get out of bed.

Painful periods are called dysmenorrhea. They can be accompanied by other symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, or discomfort in the lower back.

Sometimes the pain is from the period itself, but it also can be caused by conditions like endometriosis and fibroids. To find the source of the problem, your doctor can do a pelvic exam and Pap test, as well as other diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound or laparoscopy.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help because they not only relieve pain, they also prevent the body from making prostaglandins -- the chemicals that stimulate your uterus to contract during your period. Your doctor might recommend that you go on the pill or get an IUD, which can also reduce period pain. Fibroids and endometriosis are sometimes treated with surgery.

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