Periodfilter: Duration of period has become shorter
February 26, 2018 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Duration of my period has shortened from its usual 7 days to 4 days. Is this a sign of something serious or just normal ageing?

From my teens to my twenties, I had wildly irregular periods. It was not unusual for me to skip 2 or 3 months or even longer. Once I stopped menstruating altogether for more than eight months for no reason. The duration was however consistent, with reasonably heavy periods that last 7 days (the last few days is usually just spotting). I was tested for PCOS etc. but everything turned out more or less normal.

My then gynae told me to lose weight because she thought my being overweight was affecting my hormones. I didn't take her seriously but I lost a bunch of weight in my early thirties after I quit my job and suddenly had a lot of time to exercise. To my surprise, my period came regularly for the first time in my life and it has been consistent ever since.

Unfortunately, after enjoying years of consistent periods, my period seems to have shortened from the usual 7 days to 4 days. It still comes regularly on time and I am in good health and feel fine with no other symptoms beyond the shortening. I am not on birth control or any medication that might affect it. However, I have been under great stress recently from work/personal issues, have regained the weight that I lost previously as a result and lack exercise. Another biggie is that I am turning forty soon so I am wondering if this is a sign of perimenopause? Are shortened periods a normal part of ageing?

Do I need to worry? Does anything need to be done? I am seeing my gynae for my regular checkup in two months and I will probably mention it to her. I am loathe to move my appointment forward unless this is serious. I underwent a bunch of testing in my twenties and am dreading undergoing another round again.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is normal.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:40 AM on February 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Every one is different so I can't say if this is normal for you, but yes, this is within the parameters of changes that occur over time. If you are feeling fine, no need to move your scheduled appointment up, but of course tell your gynecologist about it - her asking about any changes is or should be a routine part of the exam. And enjoy. Four days vs seven sounds good to me - take it!
posted by Gnella at 2:49 AM on February 27, 2018

I'm also nearly forty (argh) and have recently noticed that my periods are shorter. I saw my doc because I kept skipping them, having always been regular in the past, and she said that in the absence of alarming symptoms and as I don't want to have any more children (I have one), she'd recommend I didn't choose to investigate further, but she would refer me to a gynaecologist for scan/biopsy if I wanted. I have chosen not to do that. I'm in the UK, where routine stuff is done by the GP and referrals made to specialists if needed - we don't routinely see gynaecologists.

For me, an alarming symptom would be excessive bleeding, pain, feeling unwell, that sort of thing, and as I have none of those, I'm not seeing a reason to pursue things further. In your place I'd mention it to my gynae at the scheduled appointment, but wouldn't bring that forward.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:50 AM on February 27, 2018

I'm your age, same thing just happened to me. My doc's attitude is that this is good news. She did have me do a hormone test just in case, and start a journal to track any long-term changes.
posted by heatvision at 3:23 AM on February 27, 2018

IANYD—but this is pretty much what happened with my cycle at roughly the same age. It’s so normal for your cycle to change as you age and as your hormone levels shift. Absolutely let your dr know at your regular appt, but I think it would be unlikely to have any tests beyond perhaps simple, routine blood work.
posted by bookmammal at 4:07 AM on February 27, 2018

I also became very ... efficient ... at around the same age. I'm 45 now and it's continued that way. The only difference now is that every few months I have a 3 week cycle instead of a 4 week one. My gyno, a woman, said it was all normal.
posted by kimberussell at 4:16 AM on February 27, 2018

This sounds pretty normal to me. But if you think that you would feel better talking to your doctor just to be sure, that wouldn't be weird if you did that. (I am a great believer in "when in doubt, talk to your doctor," because I know myself well enough to know that sometimes if I don't have the confirmation from my doctor it'd just be a nagging worry.)

You may also want to try one of those period tracker apps so you can notice emerging patterns. I started using one when I was about 44, and first started watching my periods shorten in duration, then space further apart, then go totally screwy (I once had a FIFTEEN-DAY period, y'all, and then the next one was only ONE day), and these days I think I maybe have four periods a year. Hormonal/aging changes start early and take several years, and you're gonna want the data on hand becuase it's gonna get weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would start using Clue or similar, maybe watch it for a few months, and then if you are worried see your gyn even if it's ahead of schedule for your annual.

In my experience and from griping with friends (I'm 46), it sure seems like we all - whether we had previously been ultraregular or not, babies or not, birth control or not - saw some kind of noticable change around 40. Mine, frankly, got fucking nightmarish, but still totally regular, for a couple years, seemed to settle down for about a year, and then my clockwork-like schedule started going all over the place and at this point there's 4-5 a year at wildly varying intervals and it's a coin toss whether it'll be "don't even need a pad" or "can't leave the house". I had hot flashes for three months last year, in the latter part of a 5-month skip, then had a monster period and haven't had a flash since and have started getting PMS acne again because being a menstruating person is such a goddamn delight.

There's no direct correlation between this and some specific health issue. A malfunctioning thyroid can do this, reproductive cancers (and brain tumors) do sometimes mess up your cycle, but it's also within the realm of normal and it's entirely possible to have an unremarkable cycle and a serious scary disease. If you haven't seen your doctor and had bloodwork lately, you might want to so you can start a comparative timeline, but there's nothing happening that would suggest you need an emergency appointment or anything.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:52 AM on February 27, 2018

> I also became very ... efficient ... at around the same age. I'm 45 now and it's continued that way. The only difference now is that every few months I have a 3 week cycle instead of a 4 week one. My gyno, a woman, said it was all normal.

Oh, this just happened to me too -- the 3-week cycles every few months! I'm 44. I was idly reminding myself to bring it up with my gyn next time I see her, I'm glad to hear someone else say that this is a thing.

I used to have 6-7 day periods with meh cramps, nothing that a couple of Advil couldn't fix. My periods got shorter just before I turned 40, but it came with a bonus gift of one night of TERRIBLE cramps every month. That's also apparently a thing.
posted by desuetude at 7:00 AM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am 42, on birth control, and my cycles have still managed to get a little crazy. I asked my gyn and he said it was normal. I was counting on the birth control pills masking the perimenopause stuff, but alas no.
posted by amro at 7:06 AM on February 27, 2018

Granted, I've been on the birth control pill since my 20s, but I definitely noticed that in my late 30s my periods got noticeably lighter (suddenly I didn't need the super plus all the time anymore!) and more erratic in terms of length, but definitely shorter. I went from 7 days for sure to 3-5.
posted by TwoStride at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2018

Normal, and it's called "perimenopause" - which is what most of us actually mean when we say "menopause" - the "peri" period (see what I did there) is when your hormones start to change inexorably to that time when you no longer menstruate.
The last 5-7 years of that for me were hideous - my periods were shorter but hellish - heavy bleeding, accompanied by a monthly migraine and diarrhea. I am SO glad that is all behind me now - monthly bleeding for over 40 years was quite enough!
posted by dbmcd at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2018

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