Menstrual Disorders | OB-GYN


Menstrual Disorders

A skilled team of obstetrician-gynecologists helps you manage menstrual disorders at every stage of life.

Medically reviewed by Clara Paik, M.D. on Oct. 12, 2023.

Female patient with her hand on her stomach in pain talking to a female physician

Menstrual Conditions

At UC Davis Health, our obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) have extensive experience treating all types of menstrual and hormone disorders. We’re proud to be recognized as one of the top hospitals in the nation in obstetrics and gynecology, according to U.S. News & World Report. We provide the individualized care you need for complete wellness at any age.


What Are Menstrual Disorders?

Menstrual disorders are problems that affect your menstrual cycle. Your menstrual cycle is how your body prepares for pregnancy each month. The cycle starts on the first day of your period and usually lasts about 28 days.

Problems with your period can take many forms. You might have severe cramps or heavy bleeding during your periods. Or you might not have periods at all.

Menstrual disorders can affect your health in other ways, too. Infertility, anemia and osteoporosis are potential effects of menstruation problems.

The most common menstrual disorders include:

Absent Periods (Amenorrhea)

A missed period for several months in a row (not due to pregnancy or breastfeeding) is usually the result of a hormone imbalance such as PCOS. Stress, weight gain, eating disorders and other health problems can also cause amenorrhea.

Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (Menorrhagia)

Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding during your period can have a big impact on your quality of life. It can also lead to anemia, fainting and other health problems. Fibroids and hormone imbalances are common causes.

Irregular Periods

Abnormal periods may mean you have short (less than 24 days) or long (more than 38 days) menstrual cycles. Irregular periods are common in teens and in those approaching menopause.

Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea)

Mild discomfort is common during your period, but sometimes you may experience severe pain, cramps and other symptoms. Dysmenorrhea can be a sign of uterine and endometrial conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

Menopause and Perimenopause

You’re in menopause when you stop having periods for 12 consecutive months. Most people reach menopause in their 50s. Perimenopause refers to the transitional years before menopause when your hormone levels are changing.

Menopause and perimenopause are natural stages of life, not disorders or diseases. But they can produce symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, hot flashes and decreased libido (sex drive).

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

About 90% of menstruating people experience PMS in the weeks leading up to their periods. Symptoms may include bloating, headaches or changes in mood. Some people have a severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that can lead to depression, migraines and other serious problems.


Symptoms of Menstrual Disorders

Menstrual disorders can lead to a range of symptoms that affect your daily life. Make an appointment with your OB-GYN if you experience any of the following problems:

Common Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain and cramps 
  • Absent or infrequent periods 
  • Depression or changes in mood 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feeling or fullness or bloating in your abdomen 
  • Headaches 
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding 

Menstrual Disorder Complications

Period problems put you at a higher risk for the following health conditions:


Heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia. Anemia means your blood doesn’t have enough red blood cells, so your body doesn’t receive enough oxygen.

Depression and Anxiety

Many with PCOS also have depression and anxiety. Mental health conditions can also get worse during PMS or if you have premenstrual dysphoric disorder.


More than half of people with female hormone imbalances such as PCOS or irregular menstrual cycles develop prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.

Endometrial Cancer

Diabetes, obesity and other risk factors for menstrual disorders also increase your risk of endometrial cancer.

Learn more about female reproductive system cancers
Heart Disease and Stroke

You are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure if you have amenorrhea (absent periods) or irregular periods. These conditions increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.


Conditions leading to menstrual disorders, such as PCOS and uterine fibroids, are common reasons for difficulty getting pregnant.


Women with amenorrhea or those who are in menopause have low estrogen levels. Low estrogen weakens your bones and puts you at risk for osteoporosis and fractures.


Causes of Menstrual Disorders

Hormones and your menstrual cycle go hand in hand. Throughout your cycle, hormone levels fluctuate to trigger the different phases of menstruation. Your cycle begins on the first day of your period and ends the day before your next period. Your menstrual cycle prepares your body for pregnancy.

Your cycle has three phases:

  • Follicular phase: Your estrogen levels increase, triggering your ovarian follicles to grow an egg.
  • Ovulation: A rise in luteinizing hormone signals your ovaries to release an egg for fertilization.
  • Luteal phase: Your progesterone levels increase as the egg travels to your fallopian tubes. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, you shed your uterine lining during your next period.

Your hormone levels naturally change during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. But hormone imbalances can affect your cycle, lead to menstrual disorders or cause infertility.

Common causes of hormone imbalances and menstrual problems include:

Cancer or Cancer Treatment

Endocrine or female reproductive system cancers can affect hormones or cause abnormal menstruation. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also affect your periods.

Certain Medications

Blood thinners, hormone replacement therapy, birth control and other medications may lead to hormone imbalances or menstrual disorders.


A diet high in salt, caffeine, saturated fat and processed foods can make PMS symptoms and other menstrual problems worse.

Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia can cause extreme weight loss that can lead to irregular or missed periods.


Chronic (long-term) stress and anxiety disrupt your body's testosterone, estrogen and progesterone levels.

Uterine or Ovarian Conditions

Uterine or ovarian disorders affect your hormones and menstrual cycle. The most common problems include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome and primary ovarian insufficiency.


Obesity increases your risk of irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding and ovulation disorders.


Diagnosing Menstrual Disorders

Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and medical history. If you’re experiencing irregular periods, you may want to start a menstrual cycle log to record the dates of your periods. This information can help your provider make a diagnosis.

Tests for menstrual disorders may include:

  • Blood tests to measure hormone levels
  • Pelvic exam to check your reproductive organs
  • Pelvic ultrasound or transvaginal ultrasound to look for fibroids, tumors or other abnormalities in your reproductive organs
  • Endometrial biopsy to examine a sample of tissue from your uterus for signs of disease

Treatments for Menstrual Disorders

Our women’s health specialists work together to deliver expert care. Depending on your needs, you receive the coordinated input of OB-GYNs, surgeons, infertility specialists, endocrinologists and other providers.

Your treatment plan may include lifestyle changes, medication, surgery or a combination of therapies.

Surgery is reserved for severe menstrual disorders that don’t improve with conservative therapies. Some surgeries affect your ability to get pregnant, so it’s important to discuss the risks of each procedure with your provider.

We specialize in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. These minimally invasive procedures are alternatives to major abdominal surgeries and help you recover faster and with less pain.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a balanced diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of some menstrual disorders.

Birth Control

Symptoms of PCOS, fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding may improve with hormonal birth control. Birth control options include the pill, shot, patch, ring or an intrauterine device (IUD).

Tranexamic Acid

A medication called tranexamic acid, which you take at the start of your period, relieves heavy bleeding.

Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen effectively relieve PMS symptoms such as cramps, headaches and abdominal pain.

Hormone Therapy

You may benefit from hormone therapy, especially if you are entering menopause or have irregular periods. Hormone therapy increases certain types of hormones in your body to reduce your symptoms.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

We use minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic techniques to treat many disorders, including uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

Endometrial Ablation

We offer endometrial ablation for heavy menstrual bleeding. This minimally invasive procedure uses heat to reduce the lining of your uterus so you don’t bleed as much during your period.

“Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)," Office of Women's Health,

“Polycystic ovary syndrome,” Office of Women's Health,

How common are menstrual disorders?

25%Experience a menstrual disorder during their childbearing years

How common is PCOS?

1 in 10Have missing or irregular periods due to polycystic ovary syndrome

Sources: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: How many women are affected by menstrual irregularities?

Office on Women’s Health: Polycystic ovary syndrome

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