Our world changed drastically in the last few months…and with it, our bodies may be changing too! If you’ve noticed changes to your menstrual cycle recently, you’re probably not alone. As it turns out, the stress of the COVID-19 is impacting many women’s periods.
You may get your period more frequently, or you may skip a period. Your period could be heavier, or could get stretched out with days of breakthrough bleeding. Because, as Dr. Beth Donaldson recently told the Huffington Post, “Stress hormones can react with the regular hormonal cycle and misguide the body.”
In other words, your wonky period symptoms could be yet another example of the pandemic’s toll on our health. But if those changes persist for a few more months, even after you adjust to the ‘new normal,’ it’s worth exploring these other potential causes of change in your monthly cycle.
Your Period Changes with Fibroids
Fibroids can affect your menstrual cycle: from its length to its heaviness, these non-cancerous tumors can make a major toll on your body each month. But fibroids aren’t the only things that affect your monthly cycle: getting older leads to menstrual changes, too. For this reason, it’s important to know what changes are typical for your age, and which are not. Recognizing the difference between typical and atypical cycle changes could help you come to a fibroid diagnosis that much quicker.
With that in mind, here’s a decade-by-decade guide to what you should expect from your menstrual cycle:
Your Period in your 20s
Even irregular periods usually become consistent in this decade. Unfortunately, symptoms like cramps, PMS and breast tenderness also become more regular, although birth control can help mitigate menstrual symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that if you already have fibroids, birth control may contribute to their growth, so you should always consult with your doctor before starting on an oral contraceptive.
Your Period in Your 30s
This decade is the one in which most women are diagnosed with fibroids, so take note of any major changes in your cycle at this time. Want some good news? Many women will have already had children by this stage of life; after a pregnancy, negative menstrual symptoms often dissipate or go away entirely! If you receive a fibroid diagnosis in your 30s, and still plan to expand your family, it’s important to discuss treatment options with a fibroid specialist. There are several fertility-sparing fibroid treatments that can provide symptom relief without forcing you to have a hysterectomy.
Your Period in Your 40s
This is the decade in which your period will likely become irregular. It can also become heavier (an effect that can also be caused by fibroids) and spotting between periods is not uncommon. Don’t forget that pregnancy is still a possibility at this stage, so you have to carefully consider alternative contraception options before ceasing oral contraceptives that may have previously helped you manage fibroid symptoms like heavy flow.
While we can make general assumptions about the way your period will progress over the years, every woman is different. What’s “normal” for one person may be unbearable to another. So, how can you tell when it’s time to see a doctor? Here’s our rule of thumb: if your menstrual symptoms are significant enough to negatively impact your day, it’s a good idea to inform your doctor of what’s going on!