Most Frequently Asked Questions
Am I pregnant? (whatever the circumstances)
I cannot help you determine whether or not you are pregnant. A skippedperiod is a sign of pregnancy, but you can skip a period for other reasons.(see next FAQ) . If you've had unprotected sex or think your birth controlmethod may have failed,. go to the drugstore and buy a home pregnancy test,or go see your doctor, or make an appointment at PlannedParenthood.
By the way, there are forms of emergency contraception that youcan get from a doctor which will keep you from becoming pregnant afterunprotected sex, or when your method fails.
My period is irregular, is this okay?
Some women think that if they do not have a perfect 5 day period every28 days they are irregular, and there is something wrong with them. "Normal"cycles are between 21 days and 35 days, but I know some women who onlyhave 3 or 4 periods a year. It would be prudent to check with your doctorif your cycle is outside of the 21-35 day range, especially if its lessthan 21 days. I used to have a 21 day cycle - and I know more frequentperiods would have driven me crazy!
Bleeding times between 2 and 7 days are average, and the tempo and consistencyof your flow is unique to you, and changable.
All of your cycles may not be the same length. Also, your cycle mightchange over time. For example, my cycle has lengthened from 21 days, andnow comes in two sizes, a 25 day cycle and a 28 day cycle, but never 26or 27 days. Go figure.
So basically, what is normal for you is regular. The best way to geta grip on this is to begin to chart your cycle, and look for patterns.A cycle is the length of time from the start of one period to the startof your next period. All you have to do to keep track of this is mark thefirst day you start to bleed on your calendar. You also might want to noteif you had cramps, or if the flow was heavy or light.
It is common for a girl just starting her period to be irregular fora year or two, and an older woman's period might start getting wacky asearly as 5 to 10 years before menopause.
If you are worried about missed periods, know that it is common to skipa period once in a while. If you are sure you are not pregnant, the missedperiod could be due to stress, travel, sudden weight gain or weight loss,or increased levels of exercise (missed periods are common in athletes).Your period should straighten out in a month or two. If it does not, seeyou doctor..
What about spotting between periods?
Bleeding in the middle of your cycle could mean different things. Somewomen bleed a little bit when they ovulate, and that is nothing to worryabout. Mid-cycle and post-sex bleeding could also indicate that your cervixis unhappy due to some kind of STD like chlamydia or gonorrhea - or evencervical cancer. So get those Pap smears regularly, and talk to your doctorabout mid-cycle bleeding.
I have heavy, painful periods . Should I be concerned?
Some pain and/or heavy bleeding may not mean anything terrible is goingon, BUT on the other hand pain and heavy bleeding could be signs of certainconditions. For instance, heavy bleeding could indicate the presence offibroids, which are benign tumors of the uterus, or the presence of a pelvicinfection. So talk to your doctor.
Another possibility is endometriosis: you shouldfollow this link and read about it some more if you have painful periods,especially when the period is accompanied by other symptoms like nauseaor diarrhea.
What is with these big clot things I pass during my period?
Before I wrote this FAQ, women had been finding descriptions of clottingin the Experience section of this site, and writingme to express their relief that they are not the only ones who experiencethis. So let me say to those of you who have been worried about this: youare not dying! You are not alone!
My gynecologist explains clots to me as follows: Blood is pushed outof your uterus when the uterus contracts (you don't necessarily feel thesecontractions, but when they are strong, you feel them as cramps). The uterusreleases "anti-coagulants" during menstruation. These are supposedto keep the blood from clotting up as it passes from the uterus to thevagina, thus making the whole bleeding process easier.
But if you have days of heavy cramps and heavy bleeding, you may passdark, chunky clots of blood. On such days your contractions are so fastand so strong that the blood gets forced out before the anti-coagulantshave time to take effect. So the blood clots. And you pass big chunky gobsof stuff.
If the clots you are passing are larger than, say, a quarter, you mightwant to ask your doctor about it, because that indicates that your periodsare quite heavy, and they might want to check for fibroids (benign tumors).
I have this complicated menstrual problem....What do you recommendI do? Is my doctor treating me correctly?
I am not a doctor. I can't even guess what might be wrong with you.No one, for that matter, should or could diagnose you over the internet.See a doctor or other health practitioner. If you don't trust your doctor100%, see another. If you don't have medical insurance, try going to awomen's clinic, where they often have sliding scale fees. Try PlannedParenthood.
I am 14, 15, 16, 17 years old and have not started my period yet, whatshould I do??
Menarche (the first period) can occur anywhere from 9 to 17 or so. That'sa broad time range, and it is always hard to be on either end of the range.Girls who start early are often embarrassed to share it with their friendswho haven't started, and keep it secret for years. Girls who start latercan feel immature or left out. Basically, it sucks all around. Very athleticgirls tend to start late, by the way. But back to the question. If youare well into your 16th year and have not started it is probably time totalk to a doctor just to make sure that everything is okay. The doctormight just send you home to wait some more, but it can't hurt to ask. Thereis absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.
Is there any way I can postpone my period, bring my period on early,or skip my period?
I only know three possible methods for changing your period. One isfor women on the Pill. I've heard that some women fiddle with their dosageto alter their periods. There is apparently an article about this in theJuly, 1998 issue of Self magazine, which I am looking for. Secondly, Ibelieve there are herbs that may bring on a period. You should consulta trained herbalist or midwife to find out more. And last, there is menstrualextraction, a procedure that sucks out the contents of the uterus.