Concerns about changing menstrual cycles

Patient

Q: Hi. I chose Pap Smear as my Category because "menstruation" was not on the list. Please don't discard my question. Thank you.

I am a month before turning 41; I got my first period a month before turning 14. In those nearly 30 years, my period has been half-regular. The half that's regular is the period itself: generally 5-7 days, really heavy flow for 1.5-2 days, then an abrupt tapering off for 2-3 days, spotting for a day, then it's done.

The half that has never been regular is the cycle. The symptoms may be breast pain, bloating, cramps varying from mild to debilitating, moodiness, etc. They've never been anything to count on, except that they usually only happen one to a period, i.e., cramps this month, moodiness last month, breast pain next month, etc. However, I never know which it's going to be and when it'll occur. Sometimes (and I'm thinking mainly of cramps) they'll happen a day before the period begins, sometimes it'll wait until the period has begun, occasionally I won't get cramps until the heavy stuff has all but stopped.

Adding to the frustration, the cycle itself has never been regular. I've had periods sometimes 60-90 days apart, sometimes a "regular" 28 days, but mostly anywhere between 32-46 days apart (that's period-free days, from the end of one to the beginning of the next).

My concern is for my current cycle. As described, my period has been regular in what happens, but irregular in when it gets here. However, in the last year or so, my periods have suddenly gotten regular in their cycle, averaging 19-21 days from the end of one to the beginning of the next, and the symptoms are much more severe. My last period had me nearly doubled over with cramps for the entire seven days.

So my question is along the lines of what might be causing my period to change so drastically? Age? Am I pre-menopausal? (My mother says she began menopause at about age 45, but she had a hysterectomy before that, so she didn't have all the usual symptoms in the usual timeframe.) After nearly 30 years of being able to not count on my period coming at a particular time, I am quite concerned that it has changed its mind and is not only like clockwork now, but comes with more severe symptoms.

Thank you for your time and assistance with my concern. I appreciate all you can do to advise and inform me.

Doctor

A:   This question is currently in queue and will be answered shortly by one of our doctors. In the meantime you may browse our library of answered questions by clicking here.

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