Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?" is available in the About Menstruation section. Answers to other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) specific to menstruation are in this section.
Use a calendar to keep track of your menstrual cycle.1 You can mark each day of your period with an "X." Calculate the length of your cycle by counting the days from the first day of bleeding in one period to the first day of bleeding in the next period. In addition to noting the days of your period, it is helpful to make notes about the flow, any pain that is felt, and changes in mood or behavior. Many apps now exist to make tracking your cycle even easier using a smartphone.
PMS is a group of symptoms that are linked to the menstrual cycle. Symptoms usually begin before menstrual bleeding starts and then stop once menstrual bleeding begins. For some women, PMS symptoms include mild cramps or some bloating. For other women, PMS symptoms include severe pelvic pain, headaches, and fatigue.
For more detailed information about PMS, its symptoms, and its treatments, visit:
Menstrual irregularities can be caused by many different underlying causes.2,3 Some of these causes can make it harder to get pregnant, including:
The presence of menstrual irregularities can be a sign of other health problems such as thyroid disease, POI, endometriosis, PCOS, polyps, and uterine fibroids.4 If left untreated, menstrual irregularities can lead to or contribute to other conditions. These possible conditions vary depending on the type of menstrual irregularity, but some include thickening of the lining of the uterus (called endometrial hyperplasia), low bone density, and iron-deficient anemia.
It is important for a woman with a menstrual irregularity to speak to a health care provider to determine the cause of the irregularity and to receive appropriate treatment as necessary.
It is important to contact your health care provider promptly about any significant changes in your menstrual cycle.1,3 It is also important to contact your provider if your cycles are associated with significant bleeding or pain, even if your cycle has always been that way. The presence of menstrual irregularities can be indicative of other health problems, such as POI, endometriosis, PCOS, polyps, or uterine fibroids. Your health care provider can order the appropriate tests to diagnose the cause of the menstrual irregularity and provide appropriate treatment.
Menstrual irregularities are often a sign of an underlying condition and, in some cases, the underlying condition may be associated with a higher risk for cancer. For example, absent and irregular periods associated with estrogen production but no progesterone production are associated with endometrial cancer in about 14% of women, if the problem is recurrent.3 Women who experience irregular periods on a frequent basis may also have a higher risk of ovarian cancer after age 70.4 Menstrual irregularities such as heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding are not known to be associated with cancer.3
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2012). FAQ: Abnormal uterine bleeding. Retrieved May 24, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/Patients/
FAQs/Abnormal-Uterine-Bleeding (PDF - 464 KB)
- Master-Hunter, T., & Heiman, D. L. (2006). Amenorrhea: Evaluation and treatment. American Family Physician, 73, 1374–1382.
- Sweet, M. G., Schmidt-Dalton, T. A., Weiss, P. M., & Madsen, K. P. (2012). Evaluation and management of abnormal uterine bleeding in premenopausal women. American Family Physician, 85, 35–43.
- Cirillo, P. M., Wang, E. T., Cedars, M. I., Chen, L. M., & Cohn, B. A. (2016). Irregular menses predicts ovarian cancer: Prospective evidence from the Child Health and Development Studies. International Journal of Cancer, 139(5), 1009–1017. Retrieved August 2, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27082375