Chances are you’ve been managing, tracking—and perhaps lamenting—your period for decades. And you may know your menstrual cycle well. But don’t get too comfortable; change is likely just around the corner.
“Some women believe their period changes after pregnancy. But it’s our age that affects our menstrual cycle,” explains Kimberly Einhorn, MD, OB/GYN at Main Line Health. “Around age 40, expect to see some changes in your period.”
Here’s what’s possible:
Your periods may get lighter
“About 60 percent of women older than age 40 begin to experience lighter and more manageable periods,” explains Dr. Einhorn. “Having very light periods or even skipping a period is normal and no reason for concern. Just enjoy having a cycle that’s a little easier to handle.” Even if your period is irregular or barely there, you can still get pregnant. You won’t officially reach menopause until it’s been a year since your last period, which occurs on average around age 50.
You may be surprised by a heavier flow
For some women, midlife brings a temporarily heavier flow. However, if you experience heavy periods on a regular basis or have a period that lasts more than 14 days, see your doctor.
“It’s normal for menstrual flow to increase for a time. However, if your period is vastly heavier, it could signal a medical issue,” says Dr. Einhorn. “Fibroids, polyps or even cancer can cause unusually heavy periods. If you experience a heavy period more than once, it’s best to get checked.”
You may relive your teenage years
Thought you were done with acne? Think again. Because of changing hormones, women in their 40s may experience PMS symptoms like breakouts, mood swings and cramping.
“If you’re struggling with period symptoms, ask your doctor about birth control options like the pill or IUD. These contraceptives help regulate your period and reduce uncomfortable symptoms,” advises Dr. Einhorn. “For most women, they are considered safe and can bridge the gap until menopause.”
If you have questions about what's normal and what's not for your period, talk to your OB/GYN. Our Main Line Health team offers comprehensive women's health services to meet your needs and those of your family. Our health care experts are uniquely qualified to address the special concerns of women.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.