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Problem periods (text-only version)

Period problemWhat's going on?

I’m 15, but haven’t gotten my period yet.

  • If you have not started your period and you are 15 or it has been three or more years since your breasts first started to grow, you could be dealing with delayed (late) puberty. Sometimes delayed puberty is caused by a problem like poor nutrition. For most girls, puberty will happen in time and no treatment is needed.
  • Not getting your period or not having one each month can be a sign of a problem with your hormone levels called polycystic ovary syndrome (say: pol-ee-SISS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm), or PCOS. PCOS can also cause weight gain, a lot of facial hair, pain in your pelvic area, and bad acne. Learn more about PCOS.

My period doesn’t follow a schedule at all.

When you first get your period, it is normal to have some months when you don’t have a period, or even months when you have two periods. If your periods don’t get regular after about two years, you may have a health problem.

  • You could have the hormone condition polycystic ovary syndrome (say: pol-ee-SISS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm), or PCOS. PCOS can cause you to miss periods or stop getting your period, or have bleeding at times when you aren’t supposed to have your period. PCOS can also cause weight gain, a lot of facial hair, pain in your pelvic area, and bad acne. Learn more about PCOS.
  • If you have had sex, irregular bleeding also could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. You should see your doctor right away for treatment if you have pain in your lower stomach, bleeding in between periods, or fluid coming from your vagina that has a bad odor (vaginal discharge). If you do not treat PID, it can harm your ability to have babies later in life.
  • You might also have another health condition, such as diabetes or a thyroid problem.


 

My cramps are bad.

You may have dysmenorrhea (say: dis-men-uh- REE-uh), painful cramps caused by abnormal muscle movements in your uterus during periods. Other signs of dysmenorrhea are pain down the legs, being tired, weakness, fainting, and headaches.

Even though dysmenorrhea can be a normal part of having your period, see your doctor for tips on feeling better. Your doctor also can make sure you do not have a serious health problem, such as endometriosis (say: en-doh-mee-tree-OH-suhs), which happens when tissue from the uterus grows in other places, or pelvic inflammatory disease, which you can get if you’ve had sex.

Things that can put you at risk of dysmenorrhea include smoking, being overweight, and starting your period before age 11.

My lower back and/or legs hurt.

You may have dysmenorrhea (say: dis-men-uh- REE-uh), painful cramps caused by muscle movements of your uterus during periods. Things that can put you at risk of dysmenorrhea include smoking, being overweight, and starting your period before age 11. Other signs of dysmenorrhea are pain down your legs, throwing up, diarrhea, being tired, weakness, and fainting.

Lower back pain could be a sign of endometriosis (say: en-doh-mee-tree-OH-suhs), which is when tissue from your uterus grows outside the uterus.

I am sick to my stomach (throwing up and/or diarrhea).

You may get sick to your stomach if your cramps are really bad. If this happens, you may have dysmenorrhea (say: dis-men-uh- REE-uh), painful cramps caused by muscle movements of your uterus during periods. Things that can put you at risk of dysmenorrhea include smoking, being overweight, and starting your period before age 11. Other signs of dysmenorrhea are pain down the legs, being tired, weakness, fainting, and headaches.

I get headaches.

You may have PMS or dysmenorrhea (say: dis-men-uh- REE-uh), painful cramps caused by abnormal muscle movements in your uterus during periods. Things that can put you at risk of dysmenorrhea include smoking, being overweight, and starting your period before age 11. Signs of dysmenorrhea other than headaches are pain down your legs, throwing up, diarrhea, being tired, weakness, and fainting.

I am no longer getting my period.

When you stop getting your period, it is called amenorrhea (say: ay-men-uh-REE-uh). If you have had sexual intercourse, you will need to see your doctor to find out if you are pregnant.

If you know you are not pregnant and have not had your period for 3 months or more, you will need to see your doctor. 

The following things can cause your period to stop:

  • Eating disorders
  • Over-exercising
  • Stress
  • Certain medicines (chemotherapy, used to treat cancer, and some antidepressants, used to treat depression and other health problems)
  • Problems with your thyroid
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (say: pol-ee-SISS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm), or PCOS, a problem with hormones that causes weight gain, pelvic pain, bad acne, and irregular periods

Although amenorrhea may be caused by a health problem that needs to be treated, there are some things you can do to try to keep your periods on a regular schedule:

  • Keep a healthy body weight for your height.
  • Ask your parents/guardians or doctor for help controlling stress if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Do not smoke.

My period is really heavy.

Very heavy periods can be caused by different problems. It’s important to see a doctor if you have a very heavy period or a period that lasts more than 7 days. One way to know if you have a very heavy period is if you need to change your tampon or pad after less than 2 hours.

Heavy periods can be a sign of endometriosis (say: en-doh-mee-tree-OH-suhs). Endometriosis happens when tissue that is supposed to grow in the uterus grows outside it. Endometriosis can also cause long-lasting pain in your pelvic area and lower back, bleeding between periods, and diarrhea during periods.

Very heavy periods may also be a sign of a thyroid problem or a bleeding disorder. There are many types of bleeding disorders, but they are pretty rare. These disorders may happen when the blood has too little of what it needs to clot (get thick).

You might want to talk with your doctor about a bleeding disorder if you have very heavy menstrual periods, especially starting with your first period. You should also talk to the doctor if you have had problems with the following:

  • Easy bruising
  • Nosebleeds that last a long time and happen often
  • Heavy bleeding that lasts a long time after minor cuts or dental work
The most common bleeding problem in girls and women is von Willebrand’s disease, or VWD. This disorder runs in families, so your mother, sister, female cousins, or aunts also might have some of the signs listed above. To find out if you have this disorder, you will need special blood tests.

I have horrible acne and irregular periods.

Having acne is a normal part of being a teen. If you have bad acne and irregular periods, a lot of facial hair, weight gain, and pelvic pain, you may have a problem with your hormone levels called polycystic ovary syndrome (say: pol-ee-SISS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm), or PCOS. When you first get your period, it is normal to have some months when you don’t have a period, or even months when you have two periods. Your periods should become more regular (once a month) over time. But PCOS can cause you to miss periods or stop getting your period, or even bleed at times when you aren’t supposed to have your period. Learn more about PCOS.

 

Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated May 12, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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