What is an abnormal period and what should you do around this time?

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In my many successful pregnancy cases I realised that about one-third of the causes of infertility were due to an irregular period.  Most of these women don’t know that they have irregular periods until a serious problem becomes apparent. This article is very important for women who are in their reproductive years (ie. between puberty and before menopause), especially those in their teenage years.

1. What is a Normal Period?

Most women start menstruating between 12-14 years old. The first six months can be irregular and is nothing to worry about. After six months the cycle should become regular. Generally, the cycle should be around 28-30 days (I suggest recording the first day of each period in your diary)  Sometimes travel or moving residence from one city to another or strong emotions can change the length of the period cycle.  This is normal and should settle within a couple of months.

Generally, for each cycle the bleeding will last 3-6 days and should be red in colour with a medium flow (not too heavy or light bleeding). Noticeable blood clots (lumps of blood) are not a normal part of menstruation. Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and period pain are further symptoms of an abnormal period.  There should be no bleeding or severe ovulation pain between each period.

2. What is an Abnormal Period and what does this indicate?

I will list common abnormal period symptoms and common causes of these symptoms. Please ask yourself, do you have any of these abnormal symptoms?

i) Cycle: too long or too short

When the cycle is less than 27 days in conjunction with the following symptoms: body feeling hot, emotional, anxious, insomnia, a lot of dreams, very bright red blood, red tongue, rapid pulse – this can indicate Liver Heat or Kidney and Liver deficiency.

When the cycle is more than 32 days in conjunction with the following symptoms: pain in the body, lack of energy, overweight, breast tenderness and severe PMS before the period, severe period pain, dark or brownish blood or blood clots – this can indicate stagnation in the Liver and poor circulation.  Some of these symptoms, if remain untreated, can develop into polycystic ovarian disease or endometriosis.

ii) Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Severe PMS with breast fullness, bloating, constipation, puffiness and heaviness before the period usually indicates Liver and Spleen disorder (Liver stagnation and Spleen deficiency).

iii) Period Pain

Moderate or severe period pain in the abdomen and lower back with leg pain, heavy bleeding, dark blood clots or headache indicates Blood Stagnation in certain channels of the body.

iv) Exhaustion Post-Period

Feeling very exhausted after the period with dizziness, increased thirst, pale face or shortness of breath usually indicates deficiency of Qi and Blood or certain organs.  In my fertility treatment experience, these women are prone to miscarriage after falling pregnant.

v) Scanty Period

A scanty period with only 1 or 2 days bleeding which is pale red or pink, with a pale face, pale tongue or lack of energy may indicate Blood deficiency.  Upon taking a blood test, most of these people will present with an iron deficiency.

3. Lifestyle & Diet Recommendations around Menstruation

Women’s constitution and certain functions of the body is very different to that of men, especially around menstruation, or period time. If we pay more attention to lifestyle and diet, we can avoid many of the uncomfortable symptoms mentioned above.

i) Avoid drinking or eating or even touching cold things around menstruation (ie. ice-cold drinks, ice cream, anything refrigerated – leave until room temperature).

ii) Avoid heavy, strong or fast-paced exercise around menstruation, especially movement that causes pressure around the lower back and abdomen area. I suggest slow walking is the best form of exercise during bleeding.

iii) Avoid emotional issues and keep happy and calm during period time.

iv) Arrange work (career and home) so that you are not too busy or too tired around menstruation.

v) During menstruation drink more warm water or soup and when the period is finished eat a certain amount of nutritious food to restore energy. This will especially benefit those with a Qi or Blood deficiency. (For more details on diet therapy, please check the diet therapy section)

vi) Avoid sexual activity during menstruation.

4. What to do if you have Abnormal Periods

i) Visit your family doctor for a general health check.

ii) You can also visit your natural health therapist – your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner is one who can help.

iii) When you come to see a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, generally we will check you by our traditional diagnosis method, such as the tongue, pulse, signs and symptoms to find out the cause of your abnormal period and set up your individual treatment.

5) Example Case

About 2 months ago I had a female patient in her mid twenties. In the first consultation, she told me that for one month she had been experiencing extreme tiredness, dizziness, abdominal discomfort and bloating, constipation, insomnia with difficulty falling asleep and waking frequently during the night, increased dreams, very emotional and anxious. Her menstrual cycle had only been 21 days for the last 3 months. After I checked her with traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis methods, I found that she had too much Heat in the Liver & Large Intestine. It may have been caused by eating too much hot and spicy food. Finally, she told me that she had acquired these symptoms after eating hot and spicy food in Singapore every day for 10 days.

I gave her some acupuncture and Chinese herbal tablets to cool the Liver and clear the Large Intestine. After five treatment sessions her symptoms completely cleared and her menstrual cycle went back to normal.

I hope this article helps women to pay more attention to their menstrual cycles and assist in finding any issues in the earlier stages.

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24 Responses to What is an abnormal period and what should you do around this time?

  1. Brenda 11 February, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    I caught my period I wiped and seen a little blood once the whole day after I did not see anything. I smelled my period thou weird I know. The second day was a little bright red after one wipe the rest of the day nothing the third day nothing the fourth day brownish discharge and cramps what can it be and what should I do?

    • Ping Ming Health 18 February, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Dear Brenda, if the symptoms you have described occur again, we suggest you visit your doctor for a general health check. You can also visit an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner for a diagnosis, they can help you discover and resolve the cause of your abnormal period.

  2. Lillian 28 February, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    It’s been 3 yrs since I’ve first had puberty(now 15), and my period comes about every 3 months, so still irregular. Should I be concerned right now?

    • Ping Ming Health 18 March, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      Dear Lillian, usually the first six months of the period is irregular which is normal. After the first six months the period should become regular. If your period is still not regular, please see your GP doctor, or Chinese medicine practitioner for a check up and to rebalance your body. Best regards, Ping Ming Health.

  3. Britt 30 October, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    I am 19 years old, i have been experience dark brown / black blood during my period for the past 3 months, It is also a lot lighted and it only lasts about 4 days. I have been on the pill for 4 years and i have never had this problem before. I usually have heavier periods that last for about 6 days.

    • Ping Wang 9 December, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      Dear Britt, we suggest that if your symptoms continue you could visit an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner for a check up and to regulate your period.

  4. Rosa 12 December, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    Hi, I am 17 years old. I am currently sexually active and when it was time for my period I thought I missed it but I got it a few days late. It started off light normal with slight cramps but now it is heavy and bright red it looks like actual blood and I don’t know what it means I am freaking out because I’m not used to this blood nor this amount I also am experiencing no pain or cramps (which I usually do when my period is on its heavy days) or any weird physical symptoms it it’s just the blood I’m worried about.. I also only have one ovary I had it removed in July they said my period would change but it didn’t this is the first time it actually did please help I have no idea what to do

    • Ping Ming Health 14 December, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Dear Rosa, thank you for your question. The symptoms you have described are not uncommon for teenagers to experience. Due to stress, lifestyle and other reasons the period can come late, the bleeding can also be heavy and bright red. If you are not experiencing pain or cramping this is a good sign too. However, because of your recent history of an operation, we would recommend that you visit your doctor for a check-up.

  5. Tabitha 27 December, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    I’m 33 years old and I’m haveing some problems lately with my cycles I’m in sever pain due to cramping and I have a lot of large clots and its very heavy and sometimes its dark then it will change to bright red I’m so exhausted and pail looking don’t want to eat but want drink a lot of water

    • Ping Ming Health 20 February, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      Dear Tabitha, from the symptoms you have described it looks like you have a Blood Stasis condition according to Chinese medicine. To find out the exact cause of this it would be best to consult with your local Chinese medicine practitioner who can give you further advice and treatment.

  6. Natalie 13 January, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    Hi I’m 24 years old I’ve had problems with my menstruation since I was 18 I’ve Been to doctors that haven’t told me anything was wrong multiple times however the symptoms you have listed above very well indicate I have very abnormal periods and may have more serious health issues as my periods last 8 days and my menstrual cycle is only 22 days I’d like to know if you can refer me to a Chinese medicine practitioner in the Montreal West island area ? It would be gratefully appreciated then I can go to my Gyno with a proper diagnosis ps. I’ve been TTC for 4 months now and it’s just not happening so PCOS is in mind but I have a long 6-8 month wait before I can see a specialist for ultrasound and further tests

    • Ping Ming Health 19 January, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      Dear Natalie, thank you for your question. If you are waiting for an ultrasound and further tests, we do suggest you could try Chinese medicine to regulate your periods in the meantime. Unfortunately we don’t know of any experienced practitioners in the Montreal area we can recommend. We would suggest you find a Chinese medicine practitioner experienced in fertility to help you. Medically speaking, it is normal for couples to take up to 12 months to conceive naturally. While you are waiting you can follow our diet and lifestyle advice and look for ways to get your body in the best health possible for pregnancy. We wish you all the best on your journey towards motherhood.

  7. Erin 25 October, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    Hi I’m 19 years old and I have never really had problems with my mentstral cycle. Until this last one me and my boyfriend were having sex right after I got off of my period and began having cramps after we had sex… Also had dark brown discharge. It seems to scare me a lot because it’s been almost a week or maybe a little more where the dark brown blood still discharges from my vagina as if I’m still on my period.. Especially after sex, I do not have abominable pain anymore except for that one time which was the first time I noticed something different. And before I had went on my period I had a really bad yeast infection that I went to planned parenthood to get medicine to treat it. And the pill I took took about 2 to 3 days to stop my itching and white cottage cheese discharge to stop. I am EXTREMELY scared that there could be something seriously wrong. Specially bc I have become very emotional, more than I already am… Please if anyone has something similar or what I should do please let me know.

    • Ping Ming Health 31 October, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      Dear Erin, thanks for sharing your concerns. Many different reasons can affect your periods and most of them are not serious. The best advice I can give is not to be shy or ignore your symptoms. Please try not to be extremely worried, but to make an appointment to see your family doctor for a general health check up. This way you will be able to let your doctor know about your concerns and get an explanation about your symptoms. In the meantime, please avoid eating all cold foods and drinks as they can make your period cramps worse. If your western medical doctor cannot find anything wrong and you are still concerned about your periods, then we can suggest visiting an experience Chinese medicine practitioner for further help and advice.

  8. dbz 26 October, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Ive been trying to conceive for a month and a half now. my last normal period was Sept 28. I am usually heavy with tons of blood clots. Two weeks after that ( around expected ovulation ) i noticed white milky discharge no odor or itching and is very abnormal never seen my discharge that white before. a few days later having intercorse with my bf we noticed tons of white lotion like discharge again no smell or odor and very abnomal. my period was a day late ( i downloaded an app to help track periods and ovulation) but this period is like no period ive ever had before. Yesterday i started spotting when i woke up and wiped it was only streaks of red on the toilet paper but was really watery. bleed very little thru out the rest of the day and had some mild cramps and no clots. never fully soaked a full tampon. today woke up and again same thing very little blood and still bright red and no clots again just not as watery as yesterday. i dont have any pads ive been using tampons but both days the tampons were mostly brown but the tips were bright red. i have veins showing up in my boobs and chest ive never has before ive been taking naps thru out rhe day and i usually dont have to. my boobs seem to almost be swollen and my arolas are puffy and the Montgomery bumps are getting bigger. the nipple seems like its becoming purple and im really light skined. even my underboob seems fuller and bigger. i dont know whether i could call this implantation bleeding but this is the most abnormal period ice ever had and i know something isnt right.

    • Ping Ming Health 31 October, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

      Since you are trying to conceive, it is possible that you may be pregnant. I suggest the first thing to do is to visit your medical doctor for a check up and pregnancy test. The discharge and other symptoms you have mentioned are not normal for a regular period. If you find out that you are not pregnant, then you could visit an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner for help to regulate your periods and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. They will be able to give you further advice after diagnosing your body using traditional Chinese medicine methods.

  9. shelly 15 April, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    Hi im about to turn 28 and had my 3rd IUD inserted last year. Before this i had severe pain and very heavy flow. Now I either have very emotionl and anxious feelings and with small amount of brownish fluid. I don’t want to go out the IUD as its the most efficient way to not conceive – I have a wonderful partner of 3 years but happy wit just us for now. I have sensitive ovaries and can be painful during sex but not every time i menstrate. Also its more of a case of IF i even menstrate at all. Sometimes it will happen 4 months in a row and then nothing for several months.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

      Thanks for your question Shelly. It sounds like you could benefit from a general Chinese medicine health check. If you can visit an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner, they can find out if there are underlying organ imbalances which may be affecting your hormones and periods. In our experience, it should be possible to regulate and improve your symptoms without needing to remove your IUD.

  10. alisha 13 May, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    My breast hurt, so painful to touch. I’m a irregular period person and I got my period but I’m bleeding heavy,it’s dark. And I’m constantly passing clots. And in pain. My lower back hurt, front hurts. Even my vagina area hurts. Is this normal bc it’s not to normal for me.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      Dear Alisha, you have quite severe irregular period symptoms. We recommend that you find an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner to help you with your symptoms. Please don’t ignore your symptoms and plan to visit your doctor or other qualified health professional for a check up.

  11. Kora 6 June, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    I stopped my birth control on Tuesday because it was making me sick all of a sudden, and now my period has come over a week early with the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced that wake me up in the middle of the night. Also the blood is bright red and is unusually heavy for me. Usually I get normal colored blood, little to no cramps, and a light period that lasts a few days. I’m 18 years old and I don’t know what is happening to my body right now and I can’t find anything about it.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks for your question Kora. When you are taking birth control pills, the hormones in the medication are helping you to have a regular period, however, this is not your body’s natural cycle (the one you would have naturally when you’re not on birth control). Stopping your birth control is the most likely cause of your period coming early. At your age, it’s not uncommon for many girls to have irregular periods, cramping and symptoms you have described. The first thing we suggest is to visit your GP or doctor who prescribed your birth control medication if you have any concerns. Chinese medicine can also help you to regulate your period symptoms if they don’t go away after a couple of cycles. Please remember to also follow the advice in our articles, especially avoid eating/drinking cold foods and drinks, exposure to cold and excessive exercise before and during your period.

  12. Gemma 14 June, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    I had long time periods, where I have got polysystic ovaries but I have no pain or cramps some times it changes to pale pink, blood clots and bright red, I have been taking iron tablets along time but still going pale in face and lips and sometimes it slow and stop for one day. Do know if it could be something more like coeliac disease but would cause these problems.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

      Dear Gemma, thanks for your question. From our point of view, your symptoms do require further investigation and diagnosis. You could start with your GP first (have you had a blood test for iron deficiency?), and if your symptoms persist then we could suggest visiting an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner who can help to regulate your periods and improve your digestion as well.

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