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Period Problems: 4 Common Menstrual Issues for Young Women

Oct 09, 2020
Teenage girl holding her stomach, bent over on her bed

A girl’s period can add a new challenge to the already-difficult teenage years. There are many common problems or aggravations that can occur with periods, which typically occur monthly and last six or seven days. Some of these issues can be typical, but others may need to be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Irregular Periods

Irregular periods can be worrisome and inconvenient, but it is common to have irregular bleeding in the first two years following the start of menstruation; for example, a young woman may have two periods in one month or could sometimes go four months or more without getting another period.

The menstrual cycle is complex: hormones are made in the brain and must talk to the ovaries, which then talk to the uterus. As the body adjusts to all of these processes working together, periods should become more regular. It is important to see a doctor if periods are extremely irregular or occur more than three months apart.

Heavy Periods

Some periods are heavier than others, but if they become too heavy, they can they impact quality of life or even lead to anemia. Anemia is a condition associated with iron deficiency in which there is a low blood count. Anemia can lead to feeling tired all the time, difficulties with physical activity, lightheadedness and dizziness, and potentially, fainting. Blood work is often recommended when someone has heavy menstrual bleeding.

Red flags for menstrual bleeding that can cause anemia are:

  1. Flow lasting greater than eight days
  2. Soaking through a pad or tampon within one hour
  3. Soaking through bedding at night
  4. Clots bigger than one centimeter

Painful Periods

Painful periods are one of the most common reasons that girls see their healthcare provider. Prostaglandin is released during menstruation and is a hormone that can cause painful uterine contractions, leading to cramps. Heating pads and over the counter pain medications (such as medications containing ibuprofen or naproxen) can help lessen the cramping, as can light movement such as yoga. Girls should talk to a health care provider if cramps are so distressing that everyday life is affected.


Many teenagers experience acne. The hormones that are involved in the menstrual cycle can contribute to acne as well, resulting in breakouts that become worse during periods. Sometimes birth control pills are used to treat acne.

Problems during the menstrual cycle can impact a young woman’s quality of life and self-esteem, causing her to miss school, work, or other activities. The good news is that there are many treatment options available to help.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with an Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, call (614) 722-2000.

Featured Expert

Hunter Wernick
Hunter Wernick, DO
Adolescent Medicine Fellowship

Hunter Wernick, DO attended medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at Jefferson/Nemours A.I duPont Hospital for Children. She is currently an Adolescent Medicine fellow at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.