What is a normal menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle may be different from woman to woman and still be considered normal. A 21-35 day cycle, with menstrual flow lasting for 2-7 days is considered within the broad range of “normal”. Some menstrual cycles are shorter, while others experience longer cycles. Usually, the first few years of menstruation are longer cycles, and then cycles usually become shorter and more regular as women get older. As a woman ages and comes closer to menopause, the menstrual cycle may become irregular again.
What is an abnormal menstrual cycle?
Some types of abnormal menstruation or menstrual disorders are abnormal uterine bleeding (AUD), dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Abnormal uterine bleeding or AUB includes heavy menstrual bleeding, no menstrual bleeding, or bleeding between periods. AUB can be caused by a hormonal or thyroid imbalance, a structural abnormality, miscarriage, or underlying medical condition. Certain types of medication and contraception can also affect menstrual cycles such as Intrauterine devices (IUD) or birth control pills. Amenorrhea, or absence of periods, is normal before puberty, during menopause, and during pregnancy. If there is no period during other points of life, this may indicate an underlying condition that should be addressed by a medical professional. There are two types of amenorrhea, primary and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is diagnosed as a woman that has reached 16 years of age without a menstrual period. Primary amenorrhea is usually due to a hormonal imbalance or low body weight. Secondary amenorrhea is diagnosed when a woman has menstruated regularly and the period suddenly stops for 3 months or longer. This condition is often caused by stress, weight loss, illness, or in some cases a pituitary gland problem.
Dysmenorrhea means painful periods. Dysmenorrhea is caused by painful menstrual cramps and can vary in severity, but can be quite debilitating for some women. Menstrual cramping is caused by uterine contractions, which are triggered by prostaglandins.
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS includes both physical and emotional symptoms that are affected by the menstrual cycle. PMS is very common and is said to affect 75% of women. Some PMS symptoms include bloating, cramps, breast distention, depression, anxiety, headaches, and bowel changes.