If you're having problems with your period — from painful or heavy periods to skipped or stopped periods (amenorrhea) — we can help.

It's normal to have some variations in your period's length and flow, especially when you're starting puberty or approaching menopause. And mild pain and cramping, while uncomfortable, aren't typically cause for concern.

Sometimes, though, irregular or painful periods are signs of an underlying condition, such as fibroids, endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). They can also affect your quality of life and your ability to get pregnant.

If you're concerned about irregular or painful periods, experts at University of Missouri Health Care can help find — and treat — whatever's causing them.

When to get help for irregular or painful periods

While it's normal for your period to vary slightly from month to month — and over the course of your life — some irregularities may be signs of an underlying problem:

  • Bleeding between your periods
  • Heavy bleeding during your period
  • Periods more than 45 days or less than 21 days apart
  • Periods longer than seven days
  • Severe cramping or pain during or before your period
  • Irregular periods accompanied by excess hair growth on your face, chin, chest or abdomen
  • Irregular periods for more than three years
  • Irregular periods and difficulty getting pregnant
  • Skipped or stopped periods (amenorrhea) before you're 45

If you have any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with an OB/GYN. Before your visit, it can be helpful to track your periods and symptoms using a notebook or app. This can give your doctor a clearer picture of the problem.

Diagnosing the cause of painful or irregular periods

When you come in for your visit, your doctor may ask questions about your symptoms, order blood tests and do a pelvic exam.

First, they'll want to make sure you're not pregnant, breastfeeding or entering menopause. (Because all of those things can stop your periods or make them irregular.)

Then they'll work with you to determine what's causing your problem. Common causes of painful or irregular periods include:

  • Significant lifestyle changes, such as extreme weight loss, weight gain, exercise or stress
  • Medications, including birth control, steroids and blood thinners (anticoagulants)
  • Medical conditions, including thyroid problems, fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and others

Whatever the cause of your problem, the team at MU Health Care can help find treatments or lifestyle strategies that can help.

Treatment for irregular or painful periods

Treatment for irregular or painful periods depends on a variety of things, including:

  • The cause of your irregular or painful periods
  • Your symptoms
  • Your goals and preferences

Your doctor at MU Health Care will work with you to pinpoint the options best suited to help your specific problem. The best options for you may include one or more of the following:

Pain control

MU Health Care OB/GYNs are experts at treating period-related pain. They may recommend pain medications or lifestyle strategies, such as heating pads and warm baths or showers.

Hormonal birth control

Birth control options that contain the hormones estrogen or progestin can help reduce and regulate heavy bleeding. They come in many forms, including pills, injections and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Procedures to treat fibroids or endometriosis

Fibroids (noncancerous growths in your uterus) and endometriosis (when uterine lining tissue grows outside your uterus) are common causes of irregular periods.

While they sometimes can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes, severe cases often require additional treatment. We offer a wide range of advanced procedures that can eliminate fibroids or endometrial growths — and the symptoms they cause:

  • Ablation: A procedure that shrinks endometrial growths by cutting off their blood supply.
  • Uterine artery embolization: A procedure that shrinks fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.
  • Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes. While removing these organs, the surgeon also removes fibroids or endometrial growths attached to them.
  • Myomectomy: Surgery to remove fibroids.
  • Laparoscopic fibroid ablation: A small, same-day procedure to treat fibroids that uses a laparoscope, a tool to enable a physician to see organs in the abdomen.

Advanced fertility treatment options

The causes of painful or irregular periods sometimes also affect fertility. If you're struggling to get pregnant, our fertility clinic can help you grow your family.

Fertility and reproductive medicine experts at the clinic offer the full range of fertility services, including intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).