When should I talk to my doctor about changes in my period?

Periods can be fairly inconsistent from month to month for some women—especially as they age. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can range from 21 to 35 days. Menstrual flow can last anywhere from three to seven days. Flow may be heavy or light, last a few days or a week, return like clockwork or be less regular. Your period could even be late, or you could skip it altogether if you're really stressed or your routine has been turned upside down. Regardless, if you know what's typical for you—and what's not—you should be proactive and talk to your doctor if something changes.

For example:

  • Missed periods: If you haven't had a period for at least three consecutive months, call your doctor. It could be due to pregnancy, stress, hormonal imbalances, an underactive thyroid, the onset of menopause or any number of situations. Your doctor should be alerted.
  • Abnormal bleeding: Some variations in your period could be perfectly normal, but talk to your doctor if you experience something completely atypical. Anything from fluctuating hormone levels to fibroids or polyps could be to blame.
  • Painful periods: Menstrual cramps are extremely common and are thought to be caused by an excess of prostaglandins—hormones that control uterine contractions. But if there is another cause—such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids—your doctor can suggest options for treating it.

Every woman's body is different, especially when it comes to reproductive and sexual health. So it's important to find a gynecologist you feel comfortable talking with about your period.

Dr. Jessica A. Shepherd, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

You should talk to your doctor about changes in your period when there are consistent, long-term changes in your menstrual cycle that are unusual. Watch OBGYN specialist Jessica Shepherd, MD, explain the importance of communicating with your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.