Home > Blog > Long Menstrual Cycles? What You Should Know
August 5, 2020
August 5, 2020
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Do you wait longer than other women for your period to show up each month? If so, you might be experiencing long menstrual cycles. While the average menstrual cycle is28 days, normal menstrual cycles can range anywhere from 24 to 38 days in adults. Teens may have to wait even longer between menses, but they should start experiencing normal menstrual cycles within three years of their first period.
The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of your next period, with most women experiencing menstrual flow for two to seven days. Your monthly cycle is controlled by the rise and fall of hormonal levels. If you’re unsure of just how long your menstrual cycle lasts, there are a number of amazing apps out there. They can help you track the timing of factors like ovulation, bleeding, and any symptoms tied to your cycle.
Your menstrual cycle is considered long if it lasts more than 35 days. If you don’t have a period for more than 90 days, you can be diagnosed with infrequent menstruation – also calledoligomenorrhea.
There are many factors that could cause a long menstrual cycle. Some of the most obvious include pregnancy and perimenopause (a pre-menopausal state that occurs when women get into their late-30s or 40s). Here are a few more of the most common causes behind long menstrual cycles.
1. Delayed Ovulation
If you want to find out if delayed ovulation is behind your longer menstrual cycle, the first thing to do is to find out when you ovulate. If you have a 39-day cycle, you most likely ovulate on day 25 of your cycle. Any ovulation that happens after day 21 of the menstrual cycle is considereddelayed ovulation.
Start keeping track of your ovulation by tracking your cycles on a calendar or by using an app. Ovulation typically happens about two weeks before your period starts. If you don’t have periods that happen like clockwork, you can look for other signs of ovulation, such as:
- A twinge or series of cramps on one side in your lower abdominal area.20% of women experience a slight pain, known as mittelschmerz, as the ovary releases an egg.
- Charting your temperature. You’ll need a special thermometer called a basal body thermometer to take your temperature as soon as you wake up in the morning. Your body will reach its lowest temperature at ovulation and then rise immediately by about half a degree as soon as ovulation occurs.
- Monitoring cervical fluid. During ovulation, the cervical fluid becomes clear and slippery with a consistency similar to raw egg whites. After ovulation, you’ll go back to a cloudy, non-slippery discharge.
- Use an ovulation predictor kit.You can buy a kit that will predict when you’ll ovulate by monitoring the levels of luteinizing hormone in your body. It works similar to common pregnancy tests in that you just pee on a stick and wait for the result.
Delayed ovulation is often temporary and will correct itself over time. However, in some cases, medical attention may be required to address underlying problems.
It’s not all just in your head – stress can have a huge impact on your entire body, especially your menstrual cycle. Stress can be caused by everything from physical illness to a looming deadline at work. This heightened anxiety leads to an increase of cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” in your body.
Cortisol can short circuit your menstrual cycle, resulting in periods that are delayed or even missed entirely.
Losing or gaining weight can also have a huge impact on how regular your periods are. Changes of 20% or more in body weight can alter your hormone levels and your menstrual cycles as a result. Losing weight too fast or exercising too vigorously can also trigger biological stress responses. Eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia play a role in abnormal menstrual cycles as well.
4. Birth Control and Other Medications
Anytime you start hormonal birth control, you run the risk of experiencing irregular periods until your body adjusts to the new medication. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are especially noted for causing long gaps between periods.
Some lesser known culprits behind irregular menstrual cycles include:
- Anti-depressants and anti-psychotics
- Thyroid medications
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Up to 12% of – or 5 million – women in the US are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) during their reproductive years. PCOS occurs when a woman has high levels of androgens, a hormone normally attributed to male characteristics.
High androgens can affect ovulation and, as a result, the length or frequency of menstrual cycles. They can also cause acne, thinning hair on the scalp, excess hair on the face, and insulin resistance – a condition that causes nearly half of women with PCOS to develop type 2 diabetes by the time they turn 40.
Your thyroid is a small gland that produces important hormones that affect your entire body. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid produces less hormones than your body needs. This can result in other imbalances, one of which includes an increase in prolactin.
Prolactin is tied to many biological functions, including ovulation and reproduction – which is why it is also known as the “milk hormone.” Too much prolactin can overpower other reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone, leading to prolonged menstrual cycles and missed periods.
Up to 12% of US citizens suffer from hypothyroidism, with women being ten times more likely to develop the condition. If you have hypothyroidism, chances are you’re also experiencing other symptoms besides delayed periods. Some of these include:
- Dry skin
- Brain fog and mental health issues
- Muscle weakness
- Slower metabolism and weight gain
- Digestive issues like heartburn, constipation, and bloating
- Thinning hair
Hypothyroidism can increase the risk for serious complications like heart attack and neurological issues, so if you’re experiencing the symptoms above, seek the advice of a medical professional.
7. Endometrial Cancer
No one wants to consider the “Big C” when trying to identify their abnormal menstrual cycles. But it’s important to recognize the symptoms of cervical and endometrial cancer when investigating irregular periods.
About 90% of women eventually diagnosed with endometrial cancer experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. This may present itself as long gaps between periods, but it also includes unusual spotting or discharge between menses or drastic changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
You should visit your OBGYN if you have already gone through menopause and begin to experience unusual vaginal discharge. Other worrying symptoms that might point to endometrial cancer are sudden weight loss, a mass or heavy feeling in the belly, and pelvic pain.
Cancer may be a scary diagnosis, but early detection is the key to successful treatment. Make an appointment with your doctor if there are any sudden or worrying changes in your menstrual cycle, and make sure you visit your OBGYN for your yearly checkup.
What’s Normal and What’s Not?
In most cases, what’s considered normal is what’s normal for you. Keepingtrack of the start date of your periodfor several months in a row will let you know what to expect from your menstrual cycle going forward. In addition to your period’s start date, consider tracking:
- Flow level – Is it light, heavy, or medium?
- Period length – How many days does yourperiod last?
- Bleeding between periods – are you spotting or having unusual discharge between your periods?
- Pain level – Are you having worse cramps than usual?
Consult a Doctor if:
- You don’t have a period for more than 90 days, and you aren’t pregnant.
- Your periods used to be regular, but now they’re not.
- You experience menstrual bleeding for more than seven days.
- You’re experiencing heavy bleeding, and you soak through more than one feminine hygiene product every hour or two.
- Your periods occur more frequently than every 21 days.
- Your periods occur less often than ever 38 days.
- You are experiencing bleeding between periods.
- You experience severe pain during menstruation.
- Your irregular menstrual cycle is accompanied by other symptoms like extreme changes in weight, lower energy levels, digestive issues, or visible physical changes to your body.
Once you know what’s normal for you, you will be better equipped to recognize when there may be a problem that needs attention. Regular pelvic exams can ensure that any problems that are affecting your cycle are addressed as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a long menstrual cycle mean?
Long menstrual cycles occur when a woman ovulates less often. This can be caused by many physical factors like age, illness, or stress. Abnormal cycles can affect fertility or be a sign of more serious underlying conditions, so it’s important to identify what is causing your delayed periods.
Is it normal to have a menstrual cycle over 40 days?
The average menstrual cycle in women is 28 days, but anything between 24 and 38 days is considered normal. If you consistently have menstrual cycles that last longer than 38 days, or you suddenly experience a drastic change in your cycle’s length, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
At what age do periods become irregular?
Women naturally start to experience changes to their menstrual cycle when they go through perimenopause. Perimenopause is the transitional phase that occurs right before menopause. Some women enter perimenopause in their mid-30s, but it most commonly occurs to women in their 40s.
Why have my periods suddenly become irregular?
Having an irregular period from time to time is normal. But if you notice that your periods have become more irregular over time, there might be an underlying cause. Some common causes are delayed ovulation, stress, changes in weight, medication side effects, or a more serious underlying condition.
When should you see your doctor about missed periods?
You should see your doctor about abnormal periods when you have extreme or prolonged changes to your menstrual cycle. This might include missing three or more periods a year, experiencing increased flow or pain during your menses, or noting other physical changes not tied to your menstrual cycle. But it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with a trusted doctor when something feels “off” with your body or menstrual cycle.
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What Causes Long Menstrual Cycles? Longer cycles are caused by a lack of regular ovulation. During a normal cycle, it is the fall of progesterone that brings upon bleeding. If a follicle does not mature and ovulate, progesterone is never released and the lining of the uterus continues to build in response to estrogen.Should I be concerned about long period cycles? ›
Long periods can get in the way of your normal life, and they may also be a sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment. See your doctor to find out the cause of your long period so you can begin to treat it. Delaying treatment may cause complications and lead to more invasive treatments in the future.What causes extremely long menstrual cycles? ›
Menorrhagia in older reproductive-age women is typically due to uterine pathology, including fibroids, polyps and adenomyosis. However, other problems, such as uterine cancer, bleeding disorders, medication side effects and liver or kidney disease could be contributing factors.Is it normal to have a 40 day cycle? ›
The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have periods every 28 days. Regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this, from 23 to 35 days, are normal.What is an unhealthy cycle length? ›
Examples of irregular menstruation include: Periods that occur fewer than 21 days or more than 35 days apart. Missing three or more periods in a row. Menstrual flow (bleeding) that's much heavier or lighter than usual.Is it normal for your period cycle to be longer than 45 days? ›
Though the average cycle is 28 days long, anything between 21 and 45 days is considered normal. That's a 24-day difference. For the first year or two after menstruation begins, women tend to have longer cycles that don't start at the same time every month. Older women often have shorter, more consistent cycles.Why am I having periods every 2 weeks? ›
Hormones — Hormonal imbalance or problems with ovulation caused by thyroid dysfunction, hyperprolactinemia, and polycystic ovary syndrome can cause irregular vaginal bleeding. Weight — Stress, too much exercise, and weight changes can cause two periods in one month.What deficiency causes long periods? ›
Some types are related to vitamin deficiencies. But a type of anemia that's common with heavy periods is iron deficiency anemia.What does jelly like period blood mean? ›
If you notice on heavy days of your period that blood seems extra-thick, and can sometimes form a jelly-like glob, these are menstrual clots, a mix of blood and tissue released from your uterus during your period. They can vary in size and color, and usually, they are nothing to worry about.Does your menstrual cycle get longer as you get older? ›
Some women notice their menstrual cycle getting shorter with age. According to ACOG, changes in your menstrual cycle during perimenopause are normal. Your periods may become shorter or longer, and the days between your periods may increase or decrease. Your menstrual flow may become heavier or lighter.
The pregnancy success rate of a healthy woman with a regular cycle is 30%. Studies show this decreases exponentially if periods are off by ten days or more.Why do I have a 50 day cycle? ›
What Causes Long Menstrual Cycles? Longer cycles are caused by a lack of regular ovulation. During a normal cycle, it is the fall of progesterone that brings upon bleeding. If a follicle does not mature and ovulate, progesterone is never released and the lining of the uterus continues to build in response to estrogen.What age is perimenopause? ›
Perimenopause can begin in some women in their 30s, but most often it starts in women ages 40 to 44. It is marked by changes in menstrual flow and in the length of the cycle. There may be sudden surges in estrogen.What illness can affect your period? ›
- Uterine fibroids.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Clotting disorders.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - cysts on the ovaries.
Kaufman says if your periods are consistently irregular, they'd recommend seeing your doctor or gynecologist. Here is what to watch for: Consistently having periods closer than 24 days apart. Consistently having periods longer than seven days.What is considered an abnormal cycle? ›
An abnormal period is a cycle that is different than your usual cycle or one that has never been normal. Signs of an abnormal period include: A cycle that lasts less than 21 days or more than 35 days. Menstrual flow that is noticeably heavier or lighter.What are the signs of perimenopause? ›
- Mood changes.
- Changes in sexual desire.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Night sweats.
- Hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Trouble with sleep.
Although some women with PCOS have regular periods, high levels of androgens (also known as 'male-type hormones') and too much insulin in their bodies can disrupt the monthly cycle of ovulation and menstruation of many women with PCOS. If you have PCOS, your periods might be irregular, or stop altogether.Is 50 days too long between periods? ›
Perimenopause (the few years before your menstrual cycles come to an end, typically after age 45). After entering perimenopause, cycle length can vary between 14 and 50 days, though some women and people with cycles may report very little change in their menstrual cycles before menopause (6).Why is there blood when I wipe but not on my pad? ›
Most people notice spotting as a few drops of blood on their underwear or toilet paper when wiping. In most cases, spotting should not cause concern. Often, hormonal changes due to birth control, pregnancy, or menopause can trigger it.
Frequent periods can indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment. Having too many periods can also result in blood loss that leads to anemia or low blood counts, so it is essential to seek medical advice.Why is my period not stopping? ›
Long periods can be the result of a variety of factors such as health conditions, your age and your lifestyle. Underlying health conditions that can cause long periods include uterine fibroids, endometrial (uterine) polyps, adenomyosis, or more rarely, a precancerous or cancerous lesion of the uterus.What hormone causes too long periods? ›
Too much estrogen could cause periods to be extremely heavy and prolonged, and is sometimes caused by body fat levels being too high.Can low estrogen cause longer periods? ›
Your body is producing less of the hormones that help you ovulate, so your periods can become irregular. Your menstrual cycle could become longer or shorter than usual. Your bleeding could also be heavier or lighter than normal.Can low iron be due to heavy periods? ›
If you have consistently heavy bleeding during your menstrual period, it's possible to suffer anemia. Your iron levels can go down from the blood loss during your period, leaving you feeling depleted and fatigued. Anemia is a medical condition that develops when your body doesn't have enough red blood cells.What do endometriosis blood clots look like? ›
They can be bright red or burgundy and may vary in size. They are usually mixed with liquid blood. The longer the blood stays inside the uterus, the darker it is in color, and the likelier it is to form clots.Why is there blood only when I wipe during period? ›
If you notice it only when wiping or can easily absorb any light bleeding with a pantyliner (or even just underwear), it's spotting. If you need a pad or tampon to absorb bleeding between periods, it generally wouldn't be considered spotting.What causes sudden gushes of blood during period? ›
A sudden heavy period may be the result of normal hormonal fluctuations or a side effect of birth control. However, heavy periods can also indicate an underlying health condition. A person should talk to their doctor if they experience heavy bleeding or cramping that prevents them from completing normal activities.How long is too long for a period? ›
First, it's important to know how long your period should last. On average, the menstrual cycle is every 21 to 35 days and during your period, bleeding can last 2 to 7 days. But what is normal for one person might not be for another. However, heavier or longer periods can increase your chances of anemia.How to shorten your period? ›
Maintaining a cardiovascular exercise routine not only promotes overall health, but also helps lighten your menstrual flow. It may also reduce the number of days you have your period. Exercising can lessen water retention, which may alleviate bloating and reduce cramps.
Prolonged and heavy bleeding during menopause is common | University of Michigan News.What are the warning signs of infertility? ›
The main symptom of infertility is not getting pregnant. There may be no other obvious symptoms. Sometimes, women with infertility may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. In some cases, men with infertility may have some signs of hormonal problems, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function.How do I know if I'm infertile female? ›
The main symptom of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. A menstrual cycle that's too long (35 days or more), too short (less than 21 days), irregular or absent can mean that you're not ovulating. There might be no other signs or symptoms.What your period says about your fertility? ›
Some participants charted their menstrual cycles daily via an online program, Fertility Friend. The study found that women who had cycles of 26 days or fewer had reduced chances of becoming pregnant, or fecundability. The average cycle length among participants was 29 days.Is it normal for a cycle to last 60 days? ›
Most women with irregular periods have either very long cycles (45 to 60 days) or sometimes will skip their period every few months. You can have irregular periods when you first start menstruating, and then again at the other end of the equation, when you start to enter perimenopause.Does irregular periods mean infertility? ›
Irregular or abnormal ovulation accounts for 30% to 40% of all cases of infertility. Having irregular periods, no periods, or abnormal bleeding often indicates that you aren't ovulating, a condition known clinically as anovulation.Is it normal to go 60 days without a period? ›
Experts say that when you see a 60-day cycle, that's a good indication you're approaching menopause. Talk to your doctor if you miss more than two periods (and you're not perimenopausal) or have other symptoms such as irregular bleeding.What are the symptoms of low estrogen? ›
- Dry skin.
- Tender breasts.
- Weak or brittle bones.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Moodiness and irritability.
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Irregular periods or no periods (amenorrhea).
During perimenopause, you can experience a variety of symptoms. Best known is the hot flash. About 80 percent of women will experience some form of a hot flash. Hot flashes happen when your brain has trouble regulating your internal temperature, which is a common response to having less estrogen.What are the 3 stages of menopause? ›
There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism can affect your menstrual cycle. Specifically, Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism can cause irregular periods or cycles when you don't ovulate, contributing further to hormonal imbalances and the risk of cyclical flare-ups.What are the symptoms of an unhealthy period? ›
Severe pain (cramping) during your period or between periods. Unusually heavy bleeding (soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for two to three hours) or passing large clots (larger than a quarter). Foul-smelling vaginal discharge. A period lasting longer than seven days.What is dysfunctional bleeding? ›
Dysfunctional uterine bleeding occurs when the normal cycle of menstruation is disrupted, usually due to anovulation (failure to ovulate) that's unrelated to another illness. Ovulation failure is the most common type of DUB in adolescents and in women who are reaching perimenopause.What will a gynecologist do for irregular periods? ›
Your OB/GYN will discuss your options with you. These may include dietary and lifestyle changes, oral contraceptives, or surgery, depending on the nature of the irregularities. If the irregularity isn't a medical issue, or causing you discomfort, you may not require treatment at all!What do Gynaecologist do for irregular periods? ›
A gynecologist evaluates patients' symptoms and recommends treatment options for irregular periods. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid conditions, birth control methods, stress and other conditions related to the reproductive system may cause irregular periods. Medical intervention or treatment is possible.How do gynecologists test for irregular periods? ›
Your Doctor Might Order the Following Lab Tests or Studies:
Pregnancy test. Blood tests for certain hormone levels (thyroid stimulating hormone, cortisol, prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone, DHEA) 24-hour urine collection for free cortisol. Pelvic ultrasound.
Menstrual irregularities can have a variety of causes, including pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, infections, diseases, trauma, and certain medications.Can irregular periods cause infertility? ›
Abnormal menstruation can often be a source of concern for many women due to its discomfort and hindrance of her lifestyle. It can also be a cause of infertility, as well as indicating an underlying condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that has caused difficulty conceiving.How long is too long for a period during perimenopause? ›
How long is too long for a period during perimenopause? Long cycles are common during perimenopause and can be as long as 38 days or more. If you're experiencing one, speak with your doctor.What are signs of infertility in females? ›
Aside from having trouble conceiving, symptoms can vary significantly from one person to another. Depending on the reason for infertility, sometimes women may experience pelvic pain, heavy periods, skipped periods or unpredictable vaginal bleeding. It's important to discuss any unusual symptoms with your doctor.
Irregular menstruation (periods): Several hormones are involved in the menstrual cycle. Because of this, an imbalance in any one or several of those hormones can cause irregular periods. Specific hormone-related conditions that cause irregular periods include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and amenorrhea.What are the 1st signs of menopause? ›
- changes in mood - such as low mood or irritability.
- changes in skin conditions, including dryness or increase in oiliness and onset of adult acne.
- difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day.
- discomfort during sex.
- feelings of loss of self.
- Mood changes.
- Changes in sexual desire.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Night sweats.
- Hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Trouble with sleep.
If you have bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days per period, or is so heavy that you have to change your pad or tampon nearly every hour, you need to talk with your doctor. To find out if you have menorrhagia, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and menstrual cycles.