What kinds of problems do women have with their periods?

Women can have a range of problems with their periods, including pain, heavy bleeding, and skipped periods.

  • Amenorrhea the lack of a menstrual period. This term is used to describe the absence of a period in:
  • young women who haven't started menstruating by age 15
  • women who used to have regular periods, but haven't had one for 90 days
  • young women who haven't had a period for 90 days, even if they haven't been menstruating for long

Causes can include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extreme weight loss caused by serious illness, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress. Hormonal problems, such as those caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or problems with the reproductive organs, may be involved. It is important to talk to a doctor.  For more information, see our article on polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • Dysmenorrhea painful periods, including severe cramps. When menstrual cramps occur in teens, the cause is too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. Most teens with dysmenorrhea do not have a serious disease even though the cramps can be severe. In older women, a disease or condition, such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, sometimes causes the pain. For some women, using a heating pad or taking a warm bath helps ease their cramps. Some pain medicines available over the counter, such as ibuprofen (for instance Advil®, Motrin® ) or naproxen (for instance, Aleve®), can help with these symptoms. If pain is not relieved by these medicines or the pain interferes with work or school, you should see a doctor. Treatment depends on what is causing the problem and how severe it is.

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding– vaginal bleeding that is different from normal menstrual periods. It includes very heavy bleeding or unusually long periods, periods too close together, and bleeding between periods. In both teens and women nearing menopause, hormonal changes can cause long periods along with irregular cycles. Even if the cause is hormonal changes, treatment is available. These changes can also go along with other serious medical problems such as uterine fibroids, polyps, or even cancer. You should see a doctor if these changes occur. Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause.