Too many, too little, too early, too late, not at all: there are a lot of things that can go wrong with menstruation. And all those disorders have a name. Here’s an alphabetic summary.
A chronic condition where endometrial cells that normally line the inside of the uterus also grow inside the myometrium, the muscular wall of the uterus. Common adenomyosis symptoms include pelvic pain and heavy bleeding.
The absence of a woman’s menstrual period during her reproductive age. In other words: when you don’t menstruate (anymore). It’s called primary amenorrhea if menstruation has never taken place and secondary amenorrhea if there has been a regular cycle before, but then menstruation ceases to occur for longer than six months. Amenorrhea could have a physical cause (pregnancy or menopause), but could also be functional. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) could be the result of excessive exercise, excessive loss of body weight or fat (anorexia nervosa), or acute severe stress (accident or war situation).
A rare congenital abnormality in which the uterus is split and consists of two conjoined cavities that resemble horns (‘bi’ is Latin for two and ‘cornus’ is horn). This is also sometimes called a heart-shaped uterus. A bicornuate uterus can be unicollis (the two uterus cavities share one cervix) or bicollis (the two uterus cavities each have their own cervix). There’s also arcuate uterus (where the uterus is only partly split). A bicornuate uterus can cause difficulties with conception and menstrual complaints such as heavy bleeding.
Blood loss between two menstrual periods is called breakthrough bleeding or, if it’s a light bleeding, spotting.
Pain and/or cramps during the menstruation. It’s called primary dysmenorrhea if there is no underlying physical cause. If the symptoms can be attributed to an underlying disease, disorder or structural abnormalities either within or outside the uterus (such as fibroids or endometriosis) it’s called secondary dysmenorrhea.
A chronic condition where tissue that looks like endometrium doesn’t only grow in the womb, but also outside the uterus. This can cause chronic infections. Severe menstrual pain is one of the main symptoms of endometriosis.
Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA)
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Menstruation with extremely heavy or prolonged bleeding (longer than seven days), with a normal, regular cycle. About one in five women suffers from heavy menstrual bleeding. HMB is sometimes also called menorrhagia or hypermenorrhea.
See Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
See also menorrhagia. Menstruation with heavy or prolonged bleeding.
The medical term for menstruation with extremely light blood flow and/or over a short period (less than three days).
Also called underactive thyroid gland. A condition in which the thyroid produces too little hormone (thyroxin), causing the metabolism to run too slow. This could lead to secondary amenorrhea.
Uterine bleeding at irregular intervals, particularly between the expected menstrual periods. Light bleeding between periods is called spotting or breakthrough bleeding.
The medical term for all circulatory symptoms, psychic tension, irritable behaviour and other personality alterations and changes women feel before or during the menstruation.
Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauer Syndrome (MRK)
A rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract: girls are born without a vagina or uterus, but do have normal outside genitalia as well as normal ovaries and fallopian tubes. Due to the absent uterus, women with MRKH don’t menstruate.
See Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauer Syndrome.
Infrequent menstruation. More specifically: menstrual periods occurring at intervals of greater than 35 days (five weeks), but shorter than six months.
See Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
POI / POF
See Premature Ovarian Insufficiency.
See Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Find more on PMDD here.
See Premenstrual exacerbation.
See Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
See Premenstrual Syndrome.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Enlarged ovaries containing cysts. This leads to infrequent ovulation and thus people with PCOS experience irregular periods or no menstruation at all.
Cycles with intervals of 25 days or fewer. This leads to frequent periods and is common in girls who start menstruating or in women who have just given birth. It can also be caused by overactive ovaries or endometriosis.
Postcoital bleeding (PCB)
Spotting or bleeding that occurs after intercourse and is not related to menstruation. In other words: bleeding after sex. Postcoital bleeding could be a sign of vaginal dryness or friction during (rough) sex. It could also happen if you’re a virgin or very tensed when having sex.
Bleeding that happens more than a year after the last period has stopped. Bleeding after the menopause could be a sign of endometrial cancer. The older you are, the smaller the chances you get postmenopausal bleeding.
Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
When a woman’s ovaries stop working before the age of 40. The average woman reaches menopause when she’s 51. However, 1 in 100 stop menstruating before they turn 40 and 1 in 1000 even before they’re 30. If you aren’t using hormonal contraceptives, you’ll notice Premature Ovarian Insufficiency by a changing menstrual cycle and typical menopausal complaints (that often aren’t recognised as such because they aren’t age-appropriate). If you are using hormonal contraceptives, POI often goes unnoticed; most women only find out when they’re trying to get pregnant. Premature Ovarian Insufficiency is sometimes also called Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), Primature Ovarian Insufficiency, and Premature Menopause.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
A severe form of PMS. Women with PMDD also suffer from PMS-related symptoms such as like irritability and depression, but those symptoms are severe enough to interfere with work, social activities and relationships. PMDD occurs in 2-10% of all menstruating women.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS is a term used to describe any symptoms which occur after ovulation and disappear almost as soon as the menstruation arrives. These could be crying spells, dizziness, anxiety, headaches, weight gain, breast swelling, bloating, tiredness, irritability, depression, palpitations and aggression.
Premenstrual exacerbation (PME) and PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) aren’t easy to distinguish. The difference: PMDD is characterised by physical and psychological symptoms that you experience each cycle about one to two weeks before the onset of menstruation. PME refers to the premenstrual ‘exacerbation’ or worsening of the symptoms of another, pre-existing condition, such as a major depressive disorder or generalised anxiety disorder, in the luteal phase.
When menstrual blood flows backwards up the fallopian tubes and into the abdomen is called ‘retrogade menstruation‘.
Light vaginal bleeding between two menstrual periods is called spotting.
Period! is an independent, online magazine about all aspects of menstruation. Period! is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from medical complaints, always visit your doctor or GP. Editorial articles can contain affiliate links. Sponsored collaborations can be found in the category Spotlight. Do you have any questions? Check our Contact page.