What is happening to my periods? Is this normal?

Common changes to periods during the menopause and perimenopause


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward


14 October 2014

What causes changes to your periods?

Falling oestrogen levels will affect the monthly cycle so your periods can become light, heavy, long, short, late, early or missing, and in any combination! You can get one set of symptoms then a few months later something completely different can happen.

Confusing? Absolutely! And it is also impossible to tell which ones you will get or how long all this will last!

But, hopefully I can shed a little light on what might be going on.

The average age for this chaos to start is 45-55 but some women can start earlier, especially if other close female relatives started around the same age. Ethnic origin, smoking, obesity and certain chronic health issues may mean an earlier menopause too.

Missing periods

You may find that you miss one period then get one or two back, then miss several and so on, and eventually your periods stop for good – this can take up to several years. A few lucky women can find that their periods just stop without warning and that’s it!

What should you do?

There is really nothing specific: this is just your hormones naturally winding down.

Heavy periods

Periods can still be regular but start to get heavier and heavier, or you may find that you miss a few then the next one you get is really heavy.

What should you do?

Heavy periods, if they continue can cause anaemia, which in turn can cause fatigue, low mood, poor sleep, muscle/joint aches, flaky nails and brittle hair; so taking a gentle iron tonic would be a good idea.

Periods getting further apart

Instead of being regular your periods start to come later and later. Usually this leads to missing some, and then they stop.

What should you do? 

 

This is just the way your hormones are naturally winding down so you don’t need to do anything.

Periods getting closer together

You may find your get a period then 2 weeks later get another one. These are often heavy and can last up to seven days or more at a time.

What should you do? 

Periods like this can cause anaemia too, so a gentle iron tonic would be a good idea. Some women find the herb Agnus castus helpful, as this is traditionally used to help restore a proper monthly cycle when periods have started coming too close together. If they start to get really heavy or end up running into each other then please see your doctor.

Flooding

You may suddenly find that your periods are so heavy that you are bleeding very heavily. You may need to change sanitary towels or tampons very frequently or find that you are bleeding so much that you stain your clothes.

What should you do? 

Go to the doctor immediately: this must be treated! Although this is common it is not good for you. As well as causing anaemia it can cause dizziness and weakness. We have many women contacting us who do the right thing and go to their doctor who says it is fine and not to worry. Please don’t accept this. If you were bleeding this way from any other part of your body you would be rushed to hospital!. If the doctor still refuses to help, go to Accident and Emergency.

Short periods

Instead of your periods running the usual length of time, you may find they only last a few days. These tend to be light but some women find that they can start to get really heavy.

What should you do? 

If your periods are light there is no need to do anything. If they are heavy then a gentle iron tonic would be a good idea. If they are really heavy, follow the advice above re doctors/A&E.

Long periods

You may find your periods start to run for longer than normal. These can be light or heavy or a combination, usually starting light then getting heavier and heavier.

What should you do? 

Again if they are getting heavy go for an iron tonic, or to the doctor if it’s a case of flooding.

Spotting

This can happen in between periods or instead of a period, lasting a day or going on for weeks.

What should you do? 

If the spotting is accompanied by pain, especially if it is between periods or it goes on and on, then it is best to check with your doctor.

Painful periods

Some women find they suddenly start to get painful periods when they have not had them before, and some women who have painful periods find that they get worse. Often, if you have missed a few periods then you can get one that is painful too.

What should you do? 

A daily magnesium supplement can often calm this down, and if the painful periods are also closer together you may find the herb Agnus castus helpful. However, if the pain is severe or affecting your daily life do get it checked out by your doctor.

Phantom periods

Even though your periods are missing you still get the usual symptoms and it almost feels like one is coming on. Although your hormones are falling there is still a monthly cycle, not high enough to trigger a bleed but still high enough to give PMS-like symptoms.

What should you do? 

This is very common at the start so you don’t really need to do anything, but a magnesium supplement and a vitamin B Complex may help to ease the symptoms. However, if the pain is severe or affecting your daily life do get it checked out by your doctor.

Periods come back after being missing for a year

Many women find that they can go without a period for over a year or more then suddenly either get a single one back again or a few months’ worth. This is often caused by things such as a ‘last fling’ by your hormones, stress, illness, strenuous exercise, dieting, change of diet (especially if you improve it); even starting a new relationship can ‘re-boot’ your hormones!

What should you do? 

This is very common but remember that you are considered through the menopause after not having had a period for 2 years but if you get a period back you have to start counting from the beginning again, sorry! It is best to get this checked out by your doctor as well.

Periods come back after 2 years or more without any

Same as above but it is really important to check with your doctor.

Periods have changed colour or smell different or you are getting clots

Many women find that the blood looks different, maybe darker and thicker or lighter and thinner and it can smell different. Blood clots can occur at this time too.

What should you do? 

This is very common and usually just part of the hormonal changes going on. However, you can also be more prone to vaginal infections so if these symptoms are accompanied by pain or discomfort then do get them checked out. The same with clots if they are big or you are getting lots of them.

Get in touch!

If you are getting any symptoms that I have not listed or you are wondering about what is happening to your periods please do get in touch with me via email or Live Chat or please feel free to leave a comment below.

Just a word of caution

If any of these symptoms are worrying you in any way at all please go and see your doctor. It is amazing how many women contact us with on-going symptoms and they just don’t want to ‘bother’ their doctor. Remember: it is your National Health Service and that is what your doctor is there for!

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  • Donna claire's photo avatar
    Donna claire — 22.09.2017 23:26
    Hi.. I am 47 and yhis month my period came 3 days early and was very light only for 4 days.. My breasts remained tender all the way through my bleed which is unusual as the tenderness always goes away when my period starts.. 1 week later my period started again? It's not a constant flow. It's not heavy and no no pain.. is this perimenapause.

    Reply

    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 25.09.2017 15:05
      Hello Donna, These symptoms are common ones on the approach to the menopause (you are in the average age bracket 45-55yrs) . However, ask the doctor to test your hormone levels and iron levels to clarify this situation. Heavy bleeding or any prolonged bleeding is not good for you. Drink plenty of plain water throughout the day, avoid caffeine as this can trigger symptoms and try a gentle iron tonic from the Health food shop for now to help.

      Reply

  • Ren's photo avatar
    Ren — 20.09.2017 14:30
    Hi I used to have irregular periods for about 4 years. Since last 1.5 years I have regular cycles so I was happy to TTC. Suddenly when i tried to conceive around O time, I didn't get my periods for 60 days. I got excited and did various pregnancy tests both at home and hospital but it was all negative. So I got my periods after 60 days. I saw a bit more clots in my period, don't k ow why. Now what is surprising is I got my period again 19 days later. This has never happened to me. I don't know why. Please advise

    Reply

    • eileen's photo avatar
      eileen — 21.09.2017 13:20
      Hi Ren Please could you let me know how old you are, thanks.

      Reply

    • Ren's photo avatar
      Ren — 21.09.2017 12:59
      I'm 29

      Reply

    • eileen's photo avatar
      eileen — 21.09.2017 14:36
      Hi Ren All sorts of things can upset the monthly cycle such as stress, going on a diet, taking up exercise, even being unwell so it is best just to get this checked out by your doctor if this continues.

      Reply

  • Anne's photo avatar
    Anne — 07.09.2017 16:57
    My cycle used to be every 32nd day I have seen a change over the last year now I am at 21 days. Periods used to be heavy for the 1st two days.heavy clous and lasting 5 days now they are becoming light stop on day 3 and on day 5 staryvagain for 2 days.

    Reply

    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 08.09.2017 14:41
      Hi Anne, Many women start the menopause in this way. If you find that periods are changing you could ask the GP to test your hormone levels to clarify if these changes are due to the menopause approaching.

      Reply

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