Learn about what medical conditions can cause an abnormal period and when to see a doctor
If you have an abnormal period that is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should see a doctor:
- Acute pain during your period or between periods
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Fatigue or shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fainting or dizziness
- Fever over 102 F
- Unusually heavy bleeding (soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for several consecutive hours) or passing large clots
- Bleeding or spotting between periods or after menopause
- Sudden irregularity
- Period that lasts more than 7 days
- Period occurs more than every 21 days or less than every 35 days
- No period for more than 90 days
What conditions can cause an abnormal period?
- Amenorrhea: Amenorrhea is a condition in which your period stops completely for 3 or more consecutive months. Amenorrhea can occur due to various factors such as unhealthy weight, genetic conditions, or poor diet.
- Oligomenorrhea: Oligomenorrhea refers to irregular and inconsistent menstrual flow. There may be no periods for 35 days or more, resulting in only 4-9 periods each year. It can occur due to factors such as medications, stress, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Dysmenorrhea: Dysmenorrhea is characterized by severe and frequent menstrual cramps during your period, caused by uterine contractions. Some discomfort during your period is normal and no cause for concern. However, severe pain indicates dysmenorrhea and requires medical attention. It can occur due to various factors such as infections, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and uterine fibroids.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding: This refers to a variety of menstrual abnormalities, including heavy menstrual flow, periods that last longer than 7 days, and bleeding or spotting between periods, after sex, or after menopause.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium (tissue lining the inner uterus) grows outside the uterus, mostly in the ovaries and fallopian tubes, vagina, cervix, or intestine. It is an extremely painful condition that affects approximately 6%-10% of women of reproductive age in the United States. Heavy and painful menstruation are signs of endometriosis.
- Uterine polyps: Polyps refer to growth occurring in the endometrium of the uterus, extending into the uterine cavity. They are characterized by heavy bleeding or light spotting between periods or after menopause.
- Fibroids: Fibroids are benign tumors found in the uterus. Fibroids can cause abnormal periods and fertility issues. Most fibroids, however, don’t cause symptoms and may disappear with pregnancy and menopause.
- PID: PID is a bacterial infection of the female reproductive system that can cause heavy vaginal discharge, irregular or abnormal periods, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bacteria can enter the reproductive system in the following ways:
- Sexual contact and spread to the uterus and upper genital tract
- Gynecologic procedures
- Miscarriage or abortion
- PCOS: PCOS refers to a condition in which the ovaries produce a high amount male hormones called androgens which results in the formation of small fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries. PCOS prevents the maturation of eggs, thereby disrupting ovulation. Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Other causes: Other causes of abnormal periods include:
Medically Reviewed on 5/19/2022