Periods are a normal part of being a woman. Most women start having them around age 12, and keep having them normally until they hit menopause at around age 50. Most periods are little more than a monthly inconvenience, but painful, irregular, or missing periods can be a sign of underlying health and fertility concerns.
When does a period warrant concern?
Irregular/missing – this can be a sign of pregnancy and/or an underlying condition.
Painful – most women have cramps during their period, but pain that stops you from completing your daily tasks is not normal.
Heavy – If you pass large clots or soak through a pad or tampon in an hour, you should seek professional help.
Abnormal discharge/spotting between periods – if it looks, feels, or smells unusual, it could be a sign of an underlying condition or infection.
What causes period changes?
Periods show the warning signs of many gynaecological conditions, and concerns or changes in them can have a variety of causes. Your period may be influenced by factors such as:
- Family history – if women in your immediate family suffer from gynaecological concerns, your own chances may be higher.
- Stress – stress in your life can cause changes in your cycle
- Pregnancy – a missed period is one of the first signs of pregnancy.
- Menopause – changes in your hormone levels can change (and eventually stop) your period.
- Birth control – starting or changing birth control can impact your period.
- Obesity or low body weight – your body weight can affect the amount of female hormones in your body and can cause heavier or lighter periods.
- Other conditions – period pain or changes can be symptoms for a wide variety of conditions, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- STDs – some sexually transmitted diseases can cause bleeding between periods.
How do i get a diagnosis & Treatment?
When you have period concerns your doctor will usually commission one or more tests to help determine the root cause. These tests may include:
- Blood test – this is often used to check your hormone levels, especially if a condition like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome is suspected.
- Imaging – Ultrasound, MRI, laparoscopy, colposcopy, or other imaging procedures may be recommended to help your doctor get a clear view of your pelvic organs.
- Symptom journal – you may be asked to keep a written record of your symptoms for a period of time.
- Cervical Screening Test (CST) – formerly called a pap smear, this test can be used to look for disease or abnormal cells.
- Pregnancy test – This may be recommended if your doctor suspects you may be pregnant.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist. You can ask to be referred to Dr Homar at Toowoomba Obstetrics and Gynaecology for further treatment.