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Perimenopause

A Doctor’s Advice: ‘Why Is My Menstrual Cycle So Much Shorter Than It Used To Be?’

Find out the factors that cause changes in your menstrual cycle.

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Menstrual cycles evolve as we age. What had been a consistent 28-day cycle can shorten substantially as we approach perimenopause. Why? Because during perimenopause, which typically starts in your 40s, ovulation becomes less consistent. This inconsistency prompts irregular periods that are often accompanied by either a heavier or lighter flow. Cycles are also impacted by stress and the mediations we take. Every woman’s experience with irregular periods during perimenopause varies, but shorter periods showing up seemingly overnight are not typically something to worry about.

Alarmed by a dramatic change in her menstrual cycle, a First for Women reader in the early stages of perimenopause asked our expert, a gynecologist and director of Women’s Midlife Services at Michigan’s Holland Hospital, for advice on the issue. Here’s what Dr. Barbara DePree had to say.

Experiencing Shorter Periods During Perimenopause

Q: For the past few months, my always-regular menstrual cycle has gone from 28 days to 22. I’m 46 and not on birth control. Should I be concerned?

A: This sounds like the classic onset of perimenopause. Most women’s cycles are between 21 and 35 days, so you’re still in the normal range, but shortening cycles can indicate a dwindling number of eggs in your ovaries — meaning your body may be gearing up for menopause.

Shorter cycles are generally nothing to worry about, but since it’s a change for you, I suggest speaking with your doctor, who can help determine if your more frequent bleeding is caused by other factors: Weight loss, excessive exercise, and stress can impact the length of your cycle, as can conditions like thyroid dysfunction and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If no cause is found or your doctor doesn’t think these changes are due to impending menopause, she may suggest you go on birth control to regulate your periods.

Meet Our Expert

Barbara DePree, MD, is a gynecologist in private practice and director of Women’s Midlife Services at Michigan’s Holland Hospital. A Certified Menopause Practitioner, she is the founder of MiddlesexMD.com, an educational resource for women’s sexual health in perimenopause and beyond. To ask her a question, send an email to health@firstforwomen.com.

For more on menopause, read these stories:

Signs That Perimenopause Is Almost Over and Menopause Is About To Begin

Why Menopause Causes Anxiety and Depression (And What You Can Do About It)

Here’s How To Have a Great Sex Life After Menopause

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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