Menstrual cycle and health
Expert SaysGynaecologyMenstruationPeriods and PMS

Menstrual cycles & their possible health issues

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Menstruation is a part of every woman’s life. The average adult menstrual cycle lasts 28 – 35 days. There is relatively little cycle variability among women between the ages of 20 and 40. In comparison, there is significantly more menstrual cycle variability for the first 5 – 7 years after menarche and the last 10 years before the end of menstruation. There are certain characteristics of the menstrual cycle that make it normal. Any deviations from this can indicate how your health can be affected. 

  • What are the characteristics of a normal menstrual cycle?

Though the menstrual cycle, which is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next, is not the same for every woman. A cycle that ranges from 21 – 35 days and bleeding for about 2 – 7 days is considered normal. The menstrual blood loss constitutes 2 – 3 tablespoons of blood i.e 30 – 50 milliliters each month. Your bleeding can be light to heavy and some amount of pain is common.

  • How can deviations in your menstrual cycle point to some health issues?

Cycle length

If the menstrual cycles are delayed for more than 35 days or sometimes 3 – 4 months, we must look at the chances of having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which can affect your health in many ways. It’s not just about infertility; if not properly managed, it can lead to preterm deliveries, hypertension in pregnancies, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, eating disorders, depression, and cancer of the uterus. Long-term delayed cycles can also point us towards premature ovarian insufficiency. 

Excess bleeding

Heavy and prolonged bleeding during menstrual cycles can cause anemia. You will experience dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, malaise, and a fast heart rate. If neglected for a long time, it can lead to heart failure. Sometimes women complain of bleeding between periods or menstrual cycles. This is called intermenstrual bleeding. In such cases, a polyp, fibroids, hormonal imbalance, or an infection might be the cause.

Missed periods

If you are sexually active, first we always rule out pregnancy. If pregnancy is ruled out then we look at other causes like thyroid abnormalities, prolactinomas, excessive weight loss or weight gain, stress, extreme weather changes. All these can play a role in changing your menstrual pattern and menstrual cycle.

Pain

Some amount of pain during cycles is common, but if you have severe pain that is unbearable and affecting the quality of your life the first things to remember are endometriosis, adenomyosis, and fibroids. Did you know, a drop in oestrogen just before your period might contribute to headaches? Many women with migraines report headaches before or during menstruation. These are called hormone headaches or menstrual migraine. Luckily these can be managed.

Bleeding post menopause

Remember any bleeding once you attain menopause is not normal and you should be evaluated for dry vagina, polyps, and ruling out cancer is a must. When you are in menopause, your ovaries no longer make oestrogen. Oestrogen protects your body in many ways, including against heart disease and stroke.

Without oestrogen, you lose bone mass, which puts you at risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become brittle and weak and break easily. So take all the necessary precautions to protect your heart and bone.

All these risks are not to be taken lightly and thus it is important to monitor our menstrual cycles. Always keep a track of your menstrual cycles by keeping a note of the start date, end date, days of flow, amount of flow, pain associated, and any behavioral changes during this period. This way, you can know what is your normal cycle and identify if it goes abnormal.

Don’t miss out on the clues your menstrual cycle gives you regarding your health.


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Read all of Dr. Abhinaya Alluri’s articles here.

Dr. Abhinaya Alluri
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About author
Our #NuaExpert, Dr. Abhinaya Alluri is the Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, Laparoscopic Surgeon, and Infertility Specialist at Care Hospitals, Hyderabad.
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