Maybe menopause? Not unusual for someone of my age?
May 14, 2021 10:59 AM   Subscribe

My doctor is not concerned about my cycle – it is apparently not unusual for someone of my age. But is it?

I was on Depo Provera for many years — and had petty much no cycle — but stopped over a year ago as my bone density was not looking as good as it could be. Plus, I am 52 and could well be close to or in menopause. According to the doctor, I am not — yet — I had 2 follicles in there when they did a scan last year. What I am is menstruating almost every second or third week — and sometimes only a week goes by between them. And one time it was over a month. My question — is this not unusual for someone my age. My doctor says no — it can happen and nothing to worry about. But I am not so sure. Once we get out of lockdown here where I live, I will go to the doctor in person — but at this point I am wondering if I am worried about normal middle-aged stuff!
posted by Lescha to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Women in perimenopause, or even just in their 40s, can definitely have shorter periods. A week, however, seems particularly short.

As a general rule: I had a menstrual issue that I chalked up to "getting a little older" (a decade younger than you) because no one had told me it could be anything else. Guess what, there was an actual problem! The degree of imprecision and vagueness that medicine tolerates in understanding women's health issues is just shocking. Yes, there does seem to be a substantial range of changes in the cycle as you get older that are simply a function of age, but, if it's making you uncomfortable, don't just let yourself be put off with "yep, that can happen."
posted by praemunire at 11:04 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]

is this doctor your GP or Gyno? nothing you are describing is unusual per se, but I am 53F and I worry that doctors are too ready to dismiss everything as 'normal'.
posted by supermedusa at 11:12 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

In my experience with cycle changes "it's not happening often" is the one you can write off because it's only a problem if you're trying to get pregnant or you're not eating enough. "It's happening too much" really should be investigated because it could have any number of causes and effects.
posted by bleep at 11:13 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: To follow-up/answer, my doctor is a GP. I forgot to mention I had my hormones checked last month - all normal. I went to a gyno last year - and to her I will go again once we can here. I just asked him during my regular telephone appointment.
posted by Lescha at 11:33 AM on May 14

I had something similar after coming off several years in which my periods were supressed by medication. The frequent cycles escalated until it was basically constant spotting. Gyno did think it was worth closer investigation and ultimately did a short course of a different hormonal birth control to supress my period for a month (maybe two, I forget), after which things seemed to return to normal and I was switched to a progesterone-only bcp. Ultimately nothing was 'wrong' but my body needed a way to 're-set' its baseline normal and my gyno helped me get there (and also ruled out anything more serious via scans and a biopsy).
posted by Ausamor at 11:36 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: I had a huge uptake in period heaviness and frequency as I went into perimenopause (I am a bit younger than you.) Like a heavy period every other week. I investigated with a gynaecologist and ended up with a Mirena which has helped a lot in term of heaviness but is still pretty random for timing. So it can happen! But I was glad I had some tests an imaging to be sure it wasn’t anything more sinister.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:37 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

I am 46 and just had a 32 day period (not a cycle, I bled for 32 days) and it sucked. My OB put me on Provera to try to stop the bleeding - she explained it as a re-set of my cycle. At that time, she said that a one-time irregular period didn't necessarily cause her concern, and that multiple irregular cycles were more worrying.

We discussed the possibility of perimenopause, and I have been bracing myself for it for a couple of years now and talking to my family members about what might be "normal" in my gene pool. It doesn't actually seem to be what's happening with me, but I was glad to have the phone appointment that resulted in the prescription, and the follow-up in person appointment when Provera didn't work.

If I were you I would be trying my best to see the OB. You need the specialist context and some tests maybe.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:42 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Average age of menopause is 51.
posted by theora55 at 11:50 AM on May 14

I hate to say it but this is exactly how perimenopause was for me, starting in my mid 40s. My doc had me go back on the pill for maybe 6 months to try to get things back on a more regular schedule. When I stopped the pill after that, I did still have hideous, super-heavy periods for a while but at least it wasn't happening with only a week in between them. Definitely agreeing you should see a gyno when you can.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:46 PM on May 14

This is how perimenopause is treating me too. Violently heavy periods with lots of breakthrough bleeding the rest of the month. Tranexamic acid is a miracle for slowing the bleeding.
posted by HotToddy at 2:13 PM on May 14

High five Lawn Beaver, bout the same age and am very soon at the same length of this (light) period. I had gone without for about 40 days in between after having whittled down to a 21 day cycle over the past two years say. Just my little anecdata.
posted by Iteki at 2:32 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

I’m an NP and CNM (TINMA, etc.). Cycle length and periods do change as women head into menopause and stopping depo might make your cycles off a bit, too (eg, it can take 12-18 months for your fertility to return after stopping—that is, it can take that long for you to ovulate and have a real period). Without knowing your history, it could just be post-depo, perimenopausal funkiness, but I would also want to do a pap and an endometrial biopsy. If you need contraception, a Mirena is great as it can be used as part of HRT and to manage unscheduled bleeding (and protects against endometrial cancer). TLDR: might be normal but worth doing some more testing. Good luck!
posted by stillmoving at 2:56 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

High prolactin can influence menstrual cycles, as well. Prolactin can be high for a strange array of reasons (like, stress or a tight bra [!!!], or a benign & easily treatable tumour in your pituitary gland). So if you do more blood tests, ask for that, too.

(If you do get an endometrial biopsy, ask for pain control beyond Advil, or straight up do the surgery with general anesthetic. YMMV, but it was 15/10 pain for me. Don’t let them just spring it on you, no matter what.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:18 PM on May 16

haha my doc totally sprang the endometrial biopsy on me. Luckily she had me on 800 mg of ibuprofen every 6 hours to try to stop the damn bleeding, so I made it through all sweaty-handed but without fainting.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 2:04 PM on May 17

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