I imagine you’re probably thinking to yourself, “We’ve been at this menstruation matters thing for a while; everything should be working pretty regularly by now!” For the most part, the answer is yes, however as we continue to age, our periods will keep adjusting and evolving, even in our thirties.
Now that I’m in my thirties, my cycle has become more consistent. I know when to expect it (usually down to the week) and for the last several months, my period begins on the same date. What I have been paying more attention to are my PMS symptoms; cramp pain levels specifically. As women progress through our 30s, PMS symptoms may start to get worse (1) In her book, Radiant Again & Forever, Dr. Prudence Hall, traditional gynecological surgeon and practitioner, says, "PMS increases in a woman’s early or late 30s due to dropping estrogen." As a result, you may experience more symptoms, like crankiness, tiredness, and bloating sensations.
Good news though! Research suggests that aerobic exercise may be a prescription and treatment for PMS. A study by the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwife Research (2) concluded that physical activity does, in fact, improve the symptoms of PMS because increased endorphins may also help reduce the amount of pain you feel before your period starts (National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013). Lately, with the excitement of the holiday season, I have been excitedly skipping my workouts. I will admit, I have noticed a difference in my PMS symptoms when I don’t exercise - they’re actually more severe.
Your period evolves during every stage of womanhood. As we get older, our cycle continues to adjust based in part to normal age-related hormonal changes. In an exclusive interview with Redbook Magazine, Alyssa Dweck, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, confirms “There's an unspoken rule among doctors (3) that a woman's period tends to change through the decades." Dweck adds that "Your cycle is often an indicator of what's going on in your health and in your life, and there are many transitions between your 20s, 30s, and 40s."
Let’s learn more about what’s common about menstruation, what might be cause for concern and why it matters during your thirties.
Menstruation In Your 30s
During this decade, women typically try something new health-wise. This might mean making the decision to swap out bad habits from your twenties for healthier options. Should you choose to do so, keep in mind that making major lifestyle changes can affect your cycle for a while (Allina Health, 2016). According to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, doctor of Chinese Medicine and AZCIM Certified Integrative Medical Practitioner,"It is fine [to notice a change, but] if your period is different in a bad way for more than three months it is time to see a gynecologist."
It’s also possible some benign (harmless) uterine growths may appear in your 30s, too, including fibroids and polyps of the cervix or endometrium - the mucous membrane lining the uterus, which thickens during the menstrual cycle (4) (Edward-Elmhurst Health, 2018). These gynecological conditions generally don’t make a debut until you’ve reached the big 3-0 and might make your period heavier causing painful cramps; you may even experience intermenstrual bleeding (5) (bleeding between periods). While most of these aren't harmful to your health (Allina Health, 2016), they may interfere with your period, potentially making it heavy and painful. It's worth a visit to your doctor to see if you can take care of the problem.
What Might Be Cause for Concern
As we’ve established, menstruation in your thirties should be pretty predictable and consistent for the most part (Edward-Elmhurst Health, 2018). Symptoms such as a sudden, abnormally heavy flow, prolonged bleeding or more intense pain than your usual cramps may be a sign of a bigger issue (6) (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
Dr. Shaughanassee Williams, Doctor of Nursing Practice and founder of HealthyHER Center for Women's Care says "Abrupt changes in menstrual flow, length, and timing may indicate larger concerns and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider."
Endometriosis, which is often marked by very intense pain that might last all month, is also frequently diagnosed when a woman is in her 30s (7). The disorder happens when tissue that normally lines the uterus (womb) — the endometrium — grows outside of the uterus. While endometriosis growths are not cancerous, they may still cause problems. For instance, sometimes fertility issues may develop as a result (8) making it harder to get pregnant (Office on Women’s Health, 2018). The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with your menstrual cycle. Although many women experience cramping during their period, women with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that's far worse than usual. They also tend to report that the pain increases over time (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
According to the Mayo Clinic, the severity of your pain isn't necessarily a reliable indicator of the extent of the condition. Some women with mild endometriosis have intense pain, while others with advanced endometriosis may have little pain or even no pain at all (Mayo Clinic, 2018). If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, be sure to speak with your doctor for treatment options.
Why It Matters
While many medical experts insist that it’s common for your period to be regular during this decade, Allina Health recommends watching for the following indicators in your thirties:
Heavy flow (so much so that you need to change a pad or tampon every one to two hours)
Abnormal bleeding that lasts more than seven days
Cycles less than 21 days or longer than 38 days
Bleeding between cycles or after intercourse
Missed periods; 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 high cholesterol
Are you experiencing any of these issues in your thirties? We’re happy to help answer any #MenstruationMatters questions you have. Reach out to us directly at email@example.com and keep up with Kindara on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for additional information and resources. Be sure to look for our final blog in the #MenstruationMatters series: Why Periods Are Important In Your 40s & Beyond