The rise and fall of levels of hormones during the month control the menstrual cycle.
For the first few years after menstruation begins, longer cycles are common. A woman's cycle tends to shorten and become more regular with age. Most of the time, periods will be in the range of 21 to 35 days apart.
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 (ay-men-uh-REE-uh) — 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 and girls who haven't had a period for 90 days, even if they haven't been menstruating for long
- Extreme weight loss
- Eating disorders
- Excessive exercising
- Serious medical conditions in need of treatment
- Dysmenorrhea (dis-men-uh-REE-uh) — painful periods, including severe cramps. Menstrual cramps in teens are caused by too much of a chemical called prostaglandin (pros-tuh-GLAN-duhn). Most teens with dysmenorrhea do not have a serious disease, even though the cramps can be severe. In older women, the pain is sometimes caused by a disease or condition such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding — vaginal bleeding that’s different from normal menstrual periods. It includes:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after sex
- Spotting anytime in the menstrual cycle
- Bleeding heavier or for more days than normal
- Bleeding after menopause
In both teens and women nearing menopause, hormonal changes can cause long periods along with irregular cycles. Even if the cause is hormonal changes, you may be able to get treatment. You should keep in mind that these changes can occur with other serious health problems, such as uterine fibroids, polyps, or even cancer. See your doctor if you have any abnormal bleeding.
- You have not started menstruating by the age of 15.
- You have not started menstruating within 3 years after breast growth began, or if breasts haven't started to grow by age 13.
- Your period suddenly stops for more than 90 days.
- Your periods become very irregular after having had regular, monthly cycles.
- Your period occurs more often than every 21 days or less often than every 35 days.
- You are bleeding for more than 7 days.
- You are bleeding more heavily than usual or using more than 1 pad or tampon every 1 to 2 hours.
- You bleed between periods.
- You have severe pain during your period.
- You suddenly get a fever and feel sick after using tampons.
Young women may be more likely to get TSS. Using any kind of sanitary pads puts you at greater risk for TSS than using cotton pads.