From the onset of puberty at 11-12 years of age until menopause in middle age, menstrual cycles play a major role in the lives of girls and women.
Although it is not uncommon for periods to fluctuate throughout a woman's lifetime, they are generally considered to be regular if menstruation lasts between three to five days, with a cycle between 21 days and 35 days.
So if you happen to be experiencing longer periods, you may understandably be concerned.
If, for example, you are experiencing two-week-long periods as opposed to the regular three to 5 days, read through the following reasons to get some clue as to what may be the cause of your period irregularities.
1) Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB)
Dysfunctional uterine bleeding, or DUB, is a condition where abnormal uterine bleeding presents itself. According to WebMD, this is not a serious condition.
DUB most commonly occurs when the ovaries do not release an egg. A woman may experience changes in her period due to changes in hormone levels.
According to MedlinePlus, some symptoms of DUB can include bleeding or spotting between periods, periods occurring less than 28 days apart or more than 35 days apart, prolonged bleeding, and heavier bleeding.
2) Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the muscle tissue of the uterus and typically occur throughout childbearing years.
Fibroids can cause mild to no symptoms at all, according to WedMD.
These symptoms can include frequent urination, constipation and/or rectal pain, spotting or bleeding between periods, longer or more frequent menstruation, and heavier bleeding.
3) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If you have had sex with more than one partner, have an untreated STD, use an intrauterine device for birth control, or douche, you have a higher chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
The CDC says that PID is “an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs.”
Symptoms for PID can be mild, or there may be none at all. If there are any symptoms, they can include bleeding between periods, a burning sensation during urination, fever, pain in the lower abdomen, or an unusual discharge with bad odor from the vagina.
4) Copper IUD
The ParaGard is an intrauterine device. It is a form of birth control that has a T-shaped plastic frame with copper “coiled around the stem and two copper sleeves along the arms that continuously release copper to bathe the lining of the uterus”, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you are using this form of birth control and are experiencing period irregularities, these may be side effects of using the IUD.
It is not unheard of to experience vaginal discharge, inflammation of the vagina, pain during sex, as well as severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding while using the copper IUD.
Endometriosis is a condition that also involves abnormal growths, but these occur outside the uterus.
According to MedicineNet, these growths tend to occur on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, the surface lining of the pelvic cavity, as well as the vagina, cervix and bladder.
Although these growths are benign (noncancerous), they can cause problems such as infertility, painful intercourse, pelvic pain that can become worse during menstruation, as well as bleeding or spotting between periods.
6) Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are “roundish, fluid-filled or semisolid sacs in the ovary,” according to Aria Health.
Although these cysts are not of significant concern, they can cause a variety of symptoms such as menstrual irregularities, unexpected vaginal bleeding, as well as aching, pain, or pressure in the lower abdomen.
Endometriosis. MedicineNet. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia). WedMD. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Ovarian Cysts. Aria Health. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
ParaGard (copper IUD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Prolonged Periods: A Cause for Concern? Everyday Health. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Vaginal bleeding - hormonal. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Reviewed March 25, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith