Your Period Problems Solved: What’s Normal, What’s Not, and What to Do About It

Your period comes at the same time every month...except when it doesn’t. Find out what’s normal, what’s not, and what to do about it.

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Your period comes at the same time every month...except when it doesnt. Suddenly, without warning, youre early or late, or your flow is heavy, light, or nonexistent (and you know youre not pregnant!). You and millions of women understandably wonder, Is this normal or is something terribly wrong? “There isnt a day that goes by when I dont get questions about periods,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, co-author of A Womans Guide to Sexual Health and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine. The good news: Most period puzzles are easy to solve. Read on for the answers—and the newest solutions—that every woman needs.

Whats up: Low-dose birth control pills often lead to breakthrough bleeding, but “99.95 percent of the time thats nothing to worry about,” Dr. Minkin says. Some women who arent on the Pill spot when they ovulate because of a rapid surge and decline in estrogen midcyle. This can happen at any age during the reproductive years, says Adelaide Nardone, MD, a clinical OB-GYN instructor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Another culprit can be polyps, which are an overgrowth of normal tissue in the uterus or cervix that may be caused by high estrogen levels. Many women have no idea they have polyps, but some who have cervical polyps may experience bleeding after sex.

What to do: If youre on the Pill and the spotting doesnt resolve itself in a few months, Dr. Minkin says, ask about a higher-dose Pill. If polyps are your problem, your doc can remove them to check for premalignancies or malignancies, though theyre rare in women younger than 50. And while cervical or uterine cancer is an unlikely cause, visit your doc if the spotting doesnt go away, particularly if the spotting occurs after sex.

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Linda Formichelli
Last Updated: May 01, 2009

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