Just as our skin, hair and body shape can change in our 20s, 30s and 40s, it should be no surprise that menstrual cycles can be different during each decade of our life too. Think back to when you first started your periods, it’s highly unlikely that your monthly bleed is the same now as it was then.

So, to find out what happens with our periods during each of our fertile decades, Dr Tatiana Lapa tells us more.

Periods in your 20s

“In your 20s your period will likely become more regular and consistent than it was in your teens. Unlike in your teens, your cycle generally evens out and starts arriving at pretty much the same time each month, but you'll also start experiencing cramps, PMS, and breast tenderness which are all completely normal. Another menstruation change that often happens around this time is taking birth control pills - at this age many women decide to start taking hormonal contraception which will likely trigger changes to your usual flow. Periods will become lighter and less often with less cramping, and reduced PMS symptoms.”

Periods in your 30s

“Your 30s are probably the most predictable and consistent when it comes to periods. Symptoms such as intense pain or an unusually heavier flow could be a sign of something more serious so always see a GP if you have any of these issues. 30s is a popular time for conceiving which can also play havoc with your cycle. Getting pregnant causes your period to stop altogether and often it won’t return until 6 weeks after delivery if you aren’t breastfeeding, and if you do breastfeed it won’t come back until you slow down nursing.”

Periods in your 40s

“Your 40s mark the beginning of perimenopausal hormonal fluctuations, which are precursors to menopause. The perimenopause usually begins some years before the menopause itself as the ovaries gradually begin to produce less oestrogen. It usually starts in a woman's mid to late 40s, but can sometimes start earlier. The perimenopause typically brings symptoms such as hot flushes, irregular periods which may be heavier and more frequent, skin changes, hair thinning, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, reduced libido and changes to the metabolism and body fat. Eventually, you will experience a complete cessation of periods. The average length of the perimenopause is four years, but for some women may be anything from a few months to 10 years. The perimenopause ends when a woman has gone 12 months without having a period and this is when we can decidedly say that you are in the menopause.”

What else to look out for?

“Whatever your age, your monthly cycle gives you a great insight to your overall health. Look out for missed periods, as this could be an early sign of pregnancy or may be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), especially if missed periods are accompanied by excess hair growth, weight gain and acne.

“Heavy and painful bleeding can be caused by fibroids, polyps and endometriosis. Also keep an eye out for heavy bleeding that is accompanied by dry skin, hair loss and a slow metabolism, as this could signify thyroid issues.

“If you're concerned about anything, start with mapping your bleeds in your diary and describing any additional features such as pain, bloating, skin changes, breast changes. Your doctor will find this information very useful in better understanding the problem. Your doctor will want to see you quickly if you have experienced bleeding in between periods or after sex.”

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