Irregular Periods

Irregular periods are bothersome when you’re trying to plan activities, but they can also be more than a nuisance — they can signal an underlying health problem. Dr. Anna Le and the team at Annandale Ob-Gyn have extensive experience identifying the cause of irregular periods and providing individualized treatment that gets you back into a regular cycle. To get help with irregular periods, call one of their offices in Annandale or Alexandria, Virginia, or schedule an appointment online.

What is abnormal menstrual bleeding?

Menstrual cycles typically last 24-38 days, with a period that lasts up to eight days. Your cycles may be different, so if you’re not sure what’s normal for you, track your cycles for a few months to see how many days you go between periods and how long your periods last.

It’s common for periods to be irregular at puberty and in the years before menopause. When menstrual irregularities occur at other times, however, they may signal a problem.

Your periods are irregular when:

  • Length of your period varies by more than 7-9 days
  • Menstrual cycles are longer than 38 days or shorter than 24 days
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Lighter bleeding than usual
  • Heavy bleeding during your period based on these symptoms
  • Bleeding for more than 7 days
  • Soaking through a tampon or pad every hour
  • Needing to wear more than one pad at a time
  • Having to change pads or tampons during the night
  • Passing large blood clots (quarter-sized or larger)

What causes irregular periods?

Irregular periods can be caused by emotional stress, sickness, or suddenly losing weight. Some medications may affect your periods, such as those used to treat epilepsy and some mental health conditions.

Intense exercise or athletic training can lengthen your cycle, cause infrequent periods, or even make your periods stop. In many cases, irregular periods develop due underlying health problems such as:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Elevated levels of cortisol

If your menstrual periods are too heavy, they may be caused by:

  • Uterine fibroids and polyps
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Gynecologic cancers

How are irregular periods treated?

Dr. Le and the team at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care first determine the underlying cause of your irregular periods, then develop a treatment plan customized to meet your individual needs. Hormonal birth control methods may lighten menstrual flow and regulate your periods. Hormone therapy often helps treat irregular bleeding caused by endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and fibroids.

Diverse types of prescription medications can help stop heavy menstrual bleeding. Depending on the underlying cause of heavy bleeding, your doctor may recommend a minimally-invasive surgical procedure such as endometrial ablation or myomectomy (to remove fibroids).