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Menstrual Problems: Symptoms and Treatment

Sporadic Bleeding

First Aids

If you have been diagnosed with dysplasia, there's no need to panic. Abnormal cell growth usually doesn't mean cancer, and the questionable cells can be quickly removed in a doctor's office. But dysplasia can lead to cancer in some people—which makes an annual pap smear crucial.

When spotting occurs is much more important than the fact that you do bleed on occasion. If the spotting occurs during ovulation, it is harmless. If your sporadic bleeding occurs around ovulation, even if it is accompanied by slight pain in the lower abdomen, you don't have to spend any sleepless nights full of worry (although you should check with your gynecologist just to be absolutely certain). However, if your sporadic bleeding occurs at any other time during your monthly cycle, it could signal something more serious, including:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Endometriosis (inflammation of the uterine wall lining)
  • Benign fibroids in the uterus
  • Dysplasia (abnormal cell growth in the cervix)
  • Cervical cancer
  • Pregnancy problems
  • Hormonal imbalance (usually due to the wrong dosage of birth control pills)
Before You Put the Band-Aid On

Endometriosis is an inflammation or an abnormal thickening of the mucous lining of the uterus. In most cases, endometriosis is asymptomatic; there are no symptoms. However, some women experience terrible period cramps. They might have pain on intercourse; their cycle might become irregular, spotty, or too heavy; they might have trouble getting pregnant. The good news is that the thick layers of endometriosis can be removed on an outpatient basis, using a laser process called a laparoscopy.

If you have irregular spotting, it's important to see your gynecologist to rule out anything serious—and to take care of any problems before they get worse!

Skipping a Cycle

It sounds like a nightmare: PMS for two or three months with no relief in sight! Unfortunately, the stress of waiting for your period compounds the problem—because stress is one of the major culprits in irregularity. (Of course, pregnancy is still reason number one!) When stress strikes, unrelenting and from all directions, your brain sends out a message to the endocrine system: This is not a good time to get pregnant. The result? Your body might stop producing progesterone, a hormone necessary for ovulation, fertilization, and menstruation.

Of course, there are other reasons besides stress that can create hormonal imbalances that make you skip a cycle. They include:


If you're a vegetarian and you skip periods, your diet might be the reason. As healthy as vegetarianism is, its high-fiber foods can decrease estrogen, an important hormone for ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

  • Too much high-impact, vigorous exercise
  • Adolescence (a teen's reproductive cycle has not completely matured)
  • Menopause
  • Yo-yo dieting (which wreaks havoc with your hormones)
  • Fibroids in the uterus
  • Endometriosis
  • Urinary tract infections (especially if accompanied by fever)
  • Cancer (in rare cases)

A woman's reproductive organs.
A woman's reproductive organs.

If you have an irregular cycle for more than three months, see your gynecologist. He or she can rule out any serious conditions or treat them before they get worse.

Emergency Tampons and Sanitary Napkins

There you are, out in the woods, enjoying your vacation to the max. The stress and the dull routines of your everyday life seem far, far away. But wait. There's one thing you didn't count on—your period. And you didn't bring any tampons or napkins. The first solution is an easy one. You can drive to a drug store and buy a box. However, if you're not near civilization or it's the middle of the night, this can be tricky. In emergency situations, practicality rules.

If you only have to wait until morning, use folded up tissue or toilet paper as a makeshift napkin. (After all, our grandmothers and their grandmothers used hand-washed rags that they frequently changed and cleaned. If they could do that, hey, what's a little inconvenience to us?)

If there's no chance of getting to a drugstore, supermarket, or convenience store, you can use thick wads of folded up paper towel or clean washcloths. In a real pinch, you can cut up a clean shirt or T-shirt into squares. Use two to three squares depending on your flow.

If you hate the idea of napkins, you'll just have to adjust. There's no safe way to make an emergency tampon. The probability of infection is just too high.

More on: First Aid

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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