Most menstrual cycles last between 24 - 35 days, with the average cycle lasting 28 days. For two to seven days of this cycle, the lining of the uterus wall is shed, resulting in bleeding, which is commonly known as a period. Women approaching menopause often notice increasing irregularities from the routine of this cycle, such as clots appearing in their periods, or periods occurring less frequently than normal. This can be unexpected or confusing; read on to learn more about why you may be experiencing these menstrual changes.
Irregular Periods Can Happen Due to a Hormonal Imbalance
The menstrual cycle is dictated by hormones, and menopause itself is defined as when periods stop occurring. Menopause is generally understood to have taken place after a woman has not had a period for a year. However, a woman's periods can occur sporadically leading up to when she gets her last period. As a woman approaches menopause, levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone change, and this can lead to menstrual irregularities.
Clotting is Indicative of a Heavy Period
If bright or dark red clots appear in a woman's menstrual fluid, this may just be part of a heavy period. Due to the same hormonal imbalances that cause irregular periods, the lining of your uterus wall can become thicker as you approach menopause. During a regular period, natural anticoagulants prevent clotting from occurring. During menopause, however, the thicker uterus wall means there is more lining to be shed (resulting in a heavier period), so these anticoagulants do not have time to work properly, resulting in the appearance of clots.
Regularity Can Be Influenced by Other Factors
Menstrual irregularities are a common symptom of menopause, with approximately 90% of women between the ages of 44 - 55 experiencing them in some form. However, many other factors can impact a woman's menstrual cycle, such as a change in contraception. Other influential factors include stress and weight loss or gain. If you are concerned that you are affected by either of these issues, it is advisable to consult your doctor.
Keeping a Record Can Help
Treatment is usually unnecessary for menstrual irregularities. It's a good idea to carry a supply of pads or tampons in your bag to prepare yourself for an unexpected or particularly heavy period. It can also be helpful to keep a calendar and record how long your menstrual cycles last and the specific days in which clots appear, so you have a record to show your doctor if you are concerned that your symptoms are indicative of more serious health issues.
Irregular periods are common for women experiencing menopause, but they can be difficult to get used to, especially if a woman is accustomed to regular menstrual cycles. However, it is recommended that you see your doctor if your clots are large or extremely frequent, or if you have other concerning symptoms along with period clotting.
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- Gallenberg, M.M. (2013). Menorrhagia. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menorrhagia/expert-answers/blood-clots-during-menstruation/faq-20058401
- National Health Service UK. (2013). Treating Irregular Periods. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Periods-irregular/Pages/Treatment.aspx
- Nihira, M.A. (2012). Menstrual Blood Problems: Clots, Color, and Thickness. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from http://women.webmd.com/guide/menstrual-blood-problems-clots-color-and-thickness