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Heavy, Painful or Irregular Periods 

Heavy, painful or irregular periods are fairly common among women of reproductive age. On average, the menstrual cycle is 28 days with a period of bleeding that lasts around four to seven days, but this may vary slightly. An abnormal period is anything that varies greatly from the norm for the individual and often involves heavy bleeding and intense pain.  Other aspects of heavy, painful or irregular periods could include spotting between periods, periods that last longer than seven days or multiple missed periods in a row with pregnancy ruled out as a cause.  

What Can Cause Heavy, Painful or Irregular Periods? 

  • Causes of abnormal periods may include:
  • Increased stress or lifestyle changes
  • Large weight loss or gain
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Uterine polyps or fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Anticoagulation drugs (blood thinners)
  • Other medical conditions or cancer 

Varying Symptoms of Abnormal Periods 

The symptoms of heavy, painful or irregular periods will vary based on individual factors, including the average length of the period, pain tolerance and when the last period occurred.  

Additional signs to look out for include conditions such as: 

  • Menorrhagia – Particularly heavy or long-lasting menstrual periods 
  • Oligomenorrhea – Infrequent menstrual periods 
  • Dysmenorrhea – Painful periods and severe cramps caused by uterine contractions 

How Are Abnormal Periods Diagnosed? 

When it comes to diagnosing heavy, painful or irregular periods, having an accurate record of the menstrual cycle and any changes to it is greatly helpful. Your doctor will ask questions about your menstrual cycle, medical history and symptoms, and may also perform a physical examination. In some cases, a doctor will order additional tests to look for infections, cysts or other conditions.  

Treatment for Painful, Heavy or Irregular Periods 

Treatment for abnormal periods will vary based on the cause. Possible recommendations may include: 

  • Hormone therapy or birth control pills to regulate the menstrual cycle 
  • Lifestyle changes 
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers 
  • Medical and/or surgical treatment for fibroids 
  • Hormonal or pain-relieving medication for endometriosis 
  • Procedural options such as the placement of an intrauterine device (IUD) 

When experiencing painful, heavy or irregular periods, seeking professional medical advice is the best course of action, especially in cases of severe symptoms. The gynecology experts at Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute diagnose all types of abnormal periods and create customized treatment plans for patients.