Many women find that their period goes rogue after 40 — what was once a fairly reliable schedule and flow can all of a sudden change. Should you be worried if this happens to you? Dr. Seema Marwaha answers some questions you might have about this new super period, that you’d rather not have to ask.
Why are there changes in my cycle?
Your cycle can be an indicator of what’s going on in your health and in your life, and there are many transitions between your twenties, thirties, and forties. The way your period behaves hinges on hormones – and stress, lifestyle changes, birth control, health (so, basically everything) can disrupt or alter your flow. In short, it’s really common to see your period change over time.
Fibroids, polyps and benign uterine growths can change your period or make it heavy or painful. These are conditions often diagnosed when a woman is in her thirties or older. If your period changes drastically in this time, talk to your doctor.
Mine went totally haywire after having kids. What’s up with that?
After having a baby, your period can also change pretty drastically. Weight gain can lead to more estrogen production in your fat cells which can make your periods heavier. If you were on the pill before you conceived, the natural period that you have post baby might be quite a bit heavier than you experienced before.
If you are breastfeeding, your body is producing prolactin which can suppress periods – but if the feeding pattern changes, prolactin levels can change or drop and periods can come back in an erratic way.
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Almost all my friends are having crazy changes in their period after 40. Why?
Yup. In your 40s, you could see even more change to your flow. Many women enter peri-menopause in their 40s — it typically starts up to 10 years before menopause.
Every woman’s transition to menopause is a little bit different, but it’s very common for the menstrual cycle to be irregular and the amount of blood flow to vary. The release of eggs from the ovaries becomes more erratic — this can result in hormonal changes that cause the lining of the uterus to become thicker than usual. So when it sloughs off, the menstrual bleeding is longer and heavier. Like, super heavy.
Like, crazy heavy.
Yes. This is a total bummer for a lot of women, who expected their period to become less frequent in peri-menopause. But while it’s fairly common, noticeable changes are always worth mentioning to your doctor to rule out anything potentially harmful.
The blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding can make you anemic, so if you are feeling run-down, you could ask for a blood test that measures your level of red blood cells. It’s common for many women to have to take iron supplements.
Changes in your period can, in rare cases, be a sign of something more serious, like cancer or pre-cancerous changes to your uterus or endometrium. And if you bleed after menopause, that’s cause for concern — talk to your doctor immediately.
No matter your age, talk to your doctor if your period stops for three months (and you’re not in menopause), if you cramps are debilitating, if you have spotting or heavy bleeding between periods, or if your periods are so heavy, you have to change your pad or tampon every hour for several hours.