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At the beginning of one’s journey into womanhood, you had your first period ever. This is called ‘menarche’; the first day of that first period marked the start of your menstrual cycle. From then on, the count continued until the first day of your next period, which marked the end of the old cycle and the beginning of a new one. This is how your menstrual cycle came to be.
A menstrual cycle is the series of changes a woman’s body undergoes to prepare for pregnancy. It lasts from day 1 of bleeding to day 1 of the next bleeding. The average cycle lasts about 28 days but it can vary from 24 to 38 days.
The menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases. The first phase, which is central to our discussion today, is called the menstrual phase. This is when you bleed from your vagina. You bleed because the egg that was released in the previous cycle was not fertilized, and your uterus needs to get rid of all the baby blankets (uterine lining) she acquired in preparation for the pregnancy that never happened.
The menstrual phase lasts for a few days (3-8 days), after which you go through 3 more phases in your menstrual cycle (follicular, ovulation, and luteal phases) before entering a new menstrual phase all over again. Because the average cycle lasts for about 28 days, which is almost a calendar month, many women see their periods once a month. However, it is possible to see your period two times in a month – why does this happen and when should you see a doctor?
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that it can take up to six years after menarche for a girl’s period to regulate. It is not uncommon for adolescents, who just started experiencing menstruation to see their periods twice a month. This is due to the fluctuation of hormonal levels during puberty, causing them to have shorter or longer menstrual cycles. As girls grow older, their menstrual cycles become more regular than before.
Perimenopause, which refers to the years leading up to menopause and could last up to 10 years, is a common cause of irregular periods. During this period, women often experience changes in their menstrual cycle, including shorter ones, which could cause them to experience 2 periods in one month.
- Shorter Menstrual Cycles
Some women have a short menstrual cycle and seeing two periods in a month is not a strange thing. Even for women with a 28-day menstrual cycle, sometimes, they still get that random shorter-than-usual cycle that leads to having two menstrual phases within a month. Most times, this is a one-time occurrence and your period would return to its regular cycle after that. However, if it doesn’t, and becomes a pattern of irregular bleeding for 3 or more months, then you should talk to your doctor.
- Underlying Medical Conditions
Irregular periods, which can present as two periods in one month, could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. For example, thyroid dysfunction (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), Polycystic ovary syndrome, and endometriosis can cause irregular periods in women who have them. Usually, these conditions can be resolved or managed, but women need to know what to look out for in their bodies. Other times, what we think is our period is abnormal uterine bleeding that could be a sign of pelvic Inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids or even cervical cancer. You could also be pregnant, and what you think is your period, is just an implantation bleed.
When should you speak to a doctor?
If you observe two periods in a month for 2-3 consecutive months, you should speak to your doctor. Other symptoms that you should talk to your doctor about include
- Passing large blood clots
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Foul-smelling vagina discharge
- Unusual abdominal pain
- Pelvic pain
- Shortness of breath
For many women, seeing two periods in a month can be surprising. While changes in the menstrual cycle are common during puberty and perimenopause, they are less common in women of childbearing age. Seeing two periods in one month isn’t usually anything to worry about if it is a one-time thing, or you know you have a short cycle. However, it could also be a sign of an underlying condition. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.