Mysterious flow: Those confusing irregularities during menstruation

Daily Monitor

By Gloria Kemigisha
Thursday, April 14 2011

Periods can sometimes be a real pain. They can make you feel sick, give you a headache, stomach ache and backache. No doubt you have sometimes wished not to have them anymore. But what happens when they do not show up at all? You might panic no doubt.

A woman’s period might disappear for weeks or sometimes months. Sometimes, you may experience a very heavy flow after your period has disappeared for a few months unlike the usual 28-32 days. There are times when it only comes for half a day, or goes on for weeks. Then it just keeps on coming regularly. These are times when you start to panic and think that you are either sick or pregnant.

According to Dr. Herman Ssewaggudde, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Angel Medical Centre in Bukoto, Kampala, these are only some of the common irregularities some women experience with their monthly menstrual periods.

He explains, “Irregular periods aren’t unusual because they affect about 30 per cent of women in their reproductive years. An irregular period is any type of bleeding that is abnormal when compared to your usual menstrual cycle. This can include a late period, an early period or bleeding between periods. It can also appear in the form of a missed period, continuous periods, or periods that occur twice in one cycle.”

Ssewaggudde explains that there are various reasons for irregular periods. They may include stress, pregnancy, extreme weight loss or weight gain, intense exercise, excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol, and smoking. In some cases, certain pelvic inflammatory diseases such as gonorrhoea can affect the regular menstrual flow. While the gynaecologist says that these irregularities are usually nothing to worry about as they will get themselves back in the right order in no time, he insists there are occasions they can signal health complications. It would therefore be wise for every woman to have some knowledge about when these irregularities may be normal and when they may need to be medically checked out.

Missing periods
The doctor explains that sometimes, when a girl has just gotten her first period, it may take up to three years before it becomes regular since the flow has not been properly established. In addition to that, most women between 45-55 years may experience peri-menopause, caused by changes in hormone levels, and often signalled by irregular periods that may appear a few months before the onset of menopause. “Otherwise, in cases where the period disappears for more than four months, and a pregnancy test is negative, seek medical help immediately,” he warns. Among the possible implications of this is severe stress, poor diet and blocked tubes.

Heavy periods
Such periods are, according to the doctor, characterised by appearances of big clots or where one goes through more than one pad or tampon in an hour, usually coming with backache and pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic cramps that can be felt for a week or two before menstruation.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.