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Problem periods

Feeling ill.

It’s common to have cramps or feel uncomfortable when you have your period. And it’s common to sometimes have periods that don’t come on a regular schedule when you first start getting them. So how do you know when there’s a problem?
Keep reading to learn more about:

Signs of period problems arrow. top

One way to know if you may be having period problems is to learn what’s usual for you. Consider these questions:

  • How painful are your cramps each month? Are they usually the same each time? If they get much worse, they may be a sign of a problem.
  • How often do you get your period? How long does it last? (Use the girlshealth.gov cycle calendar to track your periods.)
  • What is your stress level like when you get your period? Are you just a little more stressed, or do you feel like you can’t cope at all?
  • How heavy is your blood flow? You can tell how heavy it is by how many times you have to change your pads or tampons.

If you see changes from what your period is usually like or if you need help with heavy bleeding, pain, or uncomfortable feelings, talk with your parents or guardians about seeing your doctor. Having answers to the questions above also can help when you talk to your doctor.

What can affect your period arrow. top

  • Stress. If you are under a lot of stress, your periods might stop for a bit, but they usually begin again when your stress goes down.
  • Exercise. Too much physical activity can cause your body fat to be very low, which can cause your periods to stop. This can happen if you are training hard for sports or if you work out a lot on your own. Being active usually is good for you, but if you are over-tired or get injured often, you may be overdoing it.
  • Hormone problems. In a normal menstrual cycle, your hormones — or natural body chemicals — go up and down. Sometimes there are problems with hormones. One common hormone condition that causes period problems is PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Read our information on PCOS for teens, and see your doctor if you think you may have PCOS.
  • Major weight loss. Girls who have anorexia will often stop having periods.

When to see a doctor arrow. top

You should talk to an adult you trust and/or see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • You have not gotten your period by the age of 15 or within three years of when your breasts started to grow
  • It has been three months or more since your last period and you haven’t gotten it again
  • You are bleeding for more days than usual or more than seven days
  • Your bleeding is very heavy
  • You suddenly feel sick after using tampons
  • You bleed in between periods or with sex (more than just a few drops)
  • You have very bad pain during your period

You should contact your doctor about period problems — and not just so you can feel more comfortable. Consider that:

  • Period problems could be a sign of an important health issue. For example, strong pain during your period could be a sign of endometriosis (say: en-doh-mee-tree-OH-suhs), which happens when tissue from your uterus grows outside the uterus.
  • Missing your period a few times in a row could be a sign of a serious problem. One type of problem affects your bones, since your bone health is related to hormones.
  • If you’re sexually active, missing your period could be a sign of pregnancy. It’s important to go to the doctor right away if you think you might be pregnant.

Some common period problems arrow. top

Use the chart below to learn more about common period problems. Click on a concern to learn more.

(If the tool above does not appear, please take a look at our text version of this tool. Viewing the above requires the Adobe Flash Player.)

 

Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated May 27, 2014

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