Regular periods are a sign that your body is working normally. You should have a regular monthly cycle unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or postmenopausal. Irregular, painful, or heavy periods can be signs of another health issue. Irregular periods can also make it harder to get pregnant. If you experience issues with your period, talk to your Desert West doctor to learn about treatment options to make your period more manageable.

Menstrual Pain

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, pain is the most common problem women have with their periods. Some women get a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen or a tugging in the pelvic area, while others experience severe cramps. Over-the-counter treatments like naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can provide relief.

Call your doctor if you don’t find relief from over-the-counter options or if you have blood clots in your menstrual flow that are larger than a quarter. You should also call your doctor if you experience pain at other times other than just before or during your period. Your doctor will help identify the cause of the pain and create a treatment plan. Treatment can include hormonal birth control to help alleviate menstrual pain.

Heavy menstrual bleeding

One out of five women suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding which can interfere with everyday life. If you are among the 20 percent, there are options for relief. Endometrial ablation removes or ablates the lining of the uterus. After this procedure, many women experience reduced bleeding and some women stop bleeding altogether. Your Desert West doctor can review the different options to help you decide if this treatment might be beneficial to you.

Irregular periods

Your periods are considered irregular if your cycle is longer or shorter than average. If the time from the first day of your last period to the start of your next period is less than 24 days or more than 38 days, or if your cycle length varies greatly from month to month, that’s considered irregular.

Irregular periods are common in teen girls who are just starting their cycles, and in menopausal women. For other women, irregular periods can indicate other health issues such as thyroid problems or diabetes. If your cycle is irregular, talk to your Desert West doctor, who will help you identify underlying causes and determine a treatment plan if needed.

Pap Smear Changes

The pap smear collects cells from your cervix to screen for cervical cancer. It’s usually part of your annual well-woman exam.

Most of the time, abnormal cell changes are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease (link to Cervical Cancer/HPV prevention?). Usually, these cell changes go away on their own, but certain types of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important to get a pelvic exam every year.

Most women who have abnormal screening test results do not have cervical cancer. Many have early cell changes that can be monitored or treated early to prevent problems later.

Some changes in cells are due to other types of infection such as bacteria or yeast infection. Menopausal women may also experience changes in their Pap smear results that are simply the result of getting older.

Your doctor might be able to do Pap smears less frequently if you’ve had a total hysterectomy, if you are over age 65, or if your doctor combines your pap smear with testing for HPV. If you have questions, talk to your Desert West doctor.