Symptoms of an abnormal period

Dr. Tariq MiskryDr. Tariq Miskry

All content within this page has been reviewed and endorsed by

Dr Tariq Miskry, Consultant Gynaecologist & Obstetrician

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Too long. Too short. Too often. Too infrequent. How can you tell if your period is abnormal? What are the symptoms of an abnormal period?Cramps

First, let’s get down to what it means to have an abnormal period.

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Signs and symptoms of an abnormal period

Abnormal period symptoms generally fall into a few categories:

  1. You’re bleeding too much

    Having an abnormally long, heavy menstrual period is known as menorrhagia. Typically, you shed between 10 and 30 ml of menstrual fluid during your period.

    This means you would use about 7 to 8 pads or tampons per period, on average. If you’re bleeding through pads or tampons in less than two hours, it’s a sign of an irregular period. Ask your doctor if you’re concerned.

  2. You’re bleeding for too long

    In general, a girl’s period lasts anywhere between 3 and 7 days. If your period is regularly much shorter or much longer than this, this could be a sign of an irregular period. Ask your doctor if you’re concerned.

  3. You’re not on a regular period schedule

    The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. In other words, if you have a regular period, you get your period about once a month. Of course, this 28-days figure is just an average.

    Every girl has her own unique cycle length. Anywhere between 21 and 35 days is considered normal.

    Getting your period anywhere outside this window is a symptom of irregular menstruation.

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What causes abnormal periods

Having an abnormal period is due to an imbalance in the hormones that control your menstrual cycle. This can be caused by a number of things.

Experiencing abnormal period symptoms may just be because you’re new to getting your period. You may have heard that your period may be abnormal when you first start menstruating.

It’s true. It takes your body a while to get into the swing of things with all the new hormones in it. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and this is true for your body, too.

It just needs some time to settle in and get this whole menstruation thing down pat.

If you’ve been menstruating for more than two years, you may experience signs of an abnormal period in the following cases:

  • Obesity
  • Extreme weight loss and eating disordered behaviour
  • Excessive exercise
  • Stress

Each of the above situations can alter the hormones in your body, and therefore affect your period. Leading a healthy lifestyle and taking good care of your body (and your emotions!) is the best remedy for these cases.

When abnormal period symptoms are a sign of something else going on.

Extremely heavy periods that get in the way of your life should not be ignored. If you find that you experience heavy menstrual bleeding, you may have a condition called menorrhagia.

Here are some abnormal period symptoms that could mean you have menorrhagia:

  • You bleed through a menstrual pad or tampon every hour for more than two hours straight
  • You notice sudden gushes in your flow
  • You bleed for a week or longer
  • You need to wake up in the middle of the night to change your pad

Menorrhagia is usually caused by an underlying medical condition that can be addressed by your doctor. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms of abnormal periods due to menorrhagia can help facilitate your doctor’s appointment.

Some of the reasons for menorrhagia that you can discuss with your doctor include:

  • Inherited bleeding disorders
  • Uterine fibroids, non-cancerous tumours on your uterus
  • Polyps, small, benign growths on your uterine lining
  • Certain medications

If you think you have menorrhagia, see your doctor. And come prepared! Your doctor will want to know when your period starts and stops, how many pads or tampons you go through in a day and whether they soaked through, and what your period symptoms are.

Keep a log in a notebook of your abnormal menstruation symptoms and bring it along with you to your doctor visit.

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