Even though you might be expecting to feel different as you get older, you shouldn't notice much of a period change in your 30s. "For the most part, a woman's menstrual period should be fairly regular and predictable by the time she reaches her 30s," Dr. Shaughanassee Williams, nurse midwife and owner of HealthyHER Center for Women's Care, tells Bustle. Which is, of course, great news.
But there are some common changes many 30-somethings experience — such as pregnancy or stopping/switching birth controls — that can affect the menstrual cycle. And the same is true for certain health conditions, which experts say may crop up around this age. So, it's important to be mindful of your cycle. "Abrupt changes in menstrual flow, length, and timing may indicate larger concerns and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider," Williams says. Of course, there is no need to panic, but if you do notice changes in your cycle, going to see your doctor is a good idea.
For the most part, though, your period shouldn't start to truly change until you hit 40. "During the mid-40s and beyond, our ovaries naturally produce less estrogen and our bodies become less fertile," Williams says. "This process is caused perimenopause, and many menstrual changes can occur during this time. Periods are often irregular and can be heavier, lighter, longer, or shorter. Other well-known symptoms are hot flashes, mood changes, night sweats, and sex drive changes."
If you notice any of the changes below, it could be due to hormonal changes, lifestyle changes, pregnancy, and certain health issues — all of which are common among women in theirs 30s. By paying attention to your body, and seeing a doctor when necessary, you can enjoy a healthier, more predictable period for years to come. Here are 11 changes experts say may happen to your period in your 30s.
1. Your Periods May Seem Much Heavier
Many factors can cause your period to be heavier. But one of the most common is stopping birth control. If you decide to stop taking your birth control, either for personal reasons or in order to have a baby, you might feel like your period is heavier once it starts back up again. But usually this is just a matter of perspective, and is nothing to be worried about. "Typically, hormonal birth control makes periods lighter and shorter; therefore, stopping it often results in perceived heaviness and longer duration," Williams says.
2. You May Have Light Or Missed Periods
Opting for a different form of birth control can bring on noticeable changes, too. "Switching from one birth control method to another can definitely impact a woman’s period," says Dr. Nita Landry, OB/GYN and co-host of The Doctors. "Some birth control methods result in lighter or even non-existent menstrual periods while other birth control methods are associated with heavier menstrual periods." So if you notice a major change, it shouldn't be a cause for concern because this may be why.
3. Your Periods Might Seem Irregular
If you've recently had a baby, that change in your body can result in irregular periods. "It can take time for things to get back to normal, especially if you're breastfeeding," says Landry. Once again, this is nothing to be worried about, but if you have any questions regarding your body post-pregnancy, talking with your doctor is the best way to get the facts.
4. Your Periods Are Super Painful
Williams says there are several gynecological conditions that tend to be diagnosed in women who are in their late 20s and 30s, including endometriosis, which is when the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus walls. And uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths within the uterus.
"These conditions can be associated with menstrual changes," she says. "For example, women with fibroids may complain of heavy and painful periods; whereas, endometriosis is marked by long-standing pelvic pain that is often made worse by the monthly menstrual cycle." If you are noticing that you have intense pain with your period, especially if this is something new to your cycle, speak with your doctor about next steps to alleviating these symptoms.
5. You Have Less Period Pain After Giving Birth
Some women report having less pain during their period after having a baby. "This is usually because the cervix has expanded and will allow for blood to flow with less need for uterine contractions," health and wellness expert Caleb Backe, of Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. Some theorize it may also be due to fewer prostaglandin receptor sites in the uterus, which can result in less pain.
6. Your Period May Stop While You're Breastfeeding
If you choose to breastfeed after having a baby, that can certainly affect your period. "Having a baby and breastfeeding will change your period," doctor of Chinese Medicine and AZCIM Certified Integrative Medical Practitioner, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, tells Bustle. "It may not even show up for a few months after breastfeeding due to the change in hormones." And while that may be frustrating, it is totally normal.
7. Your Menstrual Cycle Might Be Longer
"In a woman’s 30s, both age and hormonal fluctuations can lead to menstrual irregularity or lengthening of the time between periods," board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Carolyn Alexander, of Southern California Reproductive Center (SCRC) tells Bustle. "Evaluation for PCOS is ... important especially if any symptoms of [excessive] hair growth, hair loss, insulin resistance. Some women can experience hot flashes or night sweats which is also very important to get evaluated especially if the menstrual cycle starts spacing out." Be mindful if these symptoms do crop up, and discuss them with your doctor. They will be able to help with this potential diagnosis.
8. Your Stressful Job Can Take A Toll
Your 30s can bring on some major career changes — such as higher up roles, or longer work hours — and thus new stressors. And that stress can affect your period. "Good and bad stress will change your period ... depending on how you personally cope," says Trattner. She says that if you're not handling new stress in a healthy way — by eating nutritious foods and moving as much as possible — period issues (like bad cramps) can get worse. Speaking with a loved one or professional may be able to help you manage this stress, which may also help alleviate bad cramps.
9. Your New Lifestyle May Throw Things Off
As Trattner say, the 30s are a time when many women try something new with their health. This might mean adopting a new health plan, or wanting to swap out bad habits from your 20s for healthier ones.
While that's great news, should you choose to do so, keep in mind that making major lifestyle changes can affect your cycle for a while. As Trattner says, "It is OK [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."
10. Your Cycle May Shorten To 25 Days
As mentioned above, your menstrual cycle can lengthen in your 30s, sometimes lasting up to 40 days. But as you age, it can also shorten. "In a woman’s later 30s, her period cycle may become shorter (rather than 29 to 30 days, it might be 25 or 26 days)," Dr. Prudence Hall, author of Radiant Again & Forever, tells Bustle. "This is the first indication of perimenopause ... As we age and go into perimenopause, our hormone levels start to decrease. The cycle is run by a set amount of estrogen and progesterone and as you age, that cycle might decrease, since the hormones are decreasing. Your late 30s are when your hormone levels start to noticeably decrease." And that is completely OK.
11. Your PMS Symptoms May Increase
As you progress into your 30s, your PMS symptoms may start to get worse. As Hall 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.
If any of these issues bother you, or you're concerned something might be amiss, definitely talk to your doctor and/or gynecologist. They can help you get to the bottom of any changes you might have noticed, and diagnose underlying conditions — such as a hormonal imbalance or uterine fibroids — that may be disrupting or changing your period, and help find solutions.