Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

anonymous on August 30, 2011

What can cause variations in menstrual cycles?

I am a 37-year-old female and my menstrual cycles are usually 28-29 days. But for the last three months, they’ve been about 30-31 days long. Most recently, my last cycle was only 23 days. I haven't had sexual intercourse lately, but I did take a couple of home pregnancy tests just to be sure, and they were all negative. What can be causing my menstrual cycles to be longer and then really short?

answered by Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on August 30, 2011

I’m glad you asked this question, and it’s great that you’re keeping track of your cycles.

There are a number of different causes for variation in a woman’s menstrual cycle: stress, hormone fluctuations, weight loss or weight gain…to name only a few. So one or a combination of these factors could be affecting you.

Also, given that you’re in your late 30s, an irregular cycle could also be signs of earlyperimenopause, which is a normal part of aging. Perimenopause is the very beginning of menopause, where our menstrual cycle starts winding down. Women can experience signs of this as early as their mid 30s…and their cycle can be in flux for many years before it stops altogether.

To be on the safe side, I encourage you to see your doctor for a full examination and evaluation of the signs you’ve observed. For example,a simple blood test can check your so-called “follicle stimulating hormone” (FSH) levels. In a nutshell, FSH helps control the menstrual cycle, and this test can help evaluate the case of your irregularity.

Also, to stay on top of your health, be sure to keep seeing your doctor for regularpelvic exams andPap tests.

I wish you good health.

Related info:

Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD

Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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