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Women's Health

Changes in period

11/06/2008

Question:

I am 28 years old and have had very regular periods for years. This past month, my period started a few days late and began with dark brown discharge for a few days before my normal flow came. That part came and left in about 3 days. Now, I`m on what would be called day "7" and I`ve had some brown/red spotting for the last 3 days (mainly when I wipe but a little on a pad), even still a little minor cramping, a little breast tenderness. Usually the breast tenderness goes away after my flow starts. Is this still my period and if so is it excessively long? I`m usually done within 4-5 days so I`m a little concerned. I just had a doctor visit and mentioned my period seemed a little funky. He said not to worry, that I`m getting older and my hormones are changing and since there is no real pain or odor to not worry. He said if it persists to see him next month for an exam.

Is this cause for worry?

Thank you!

Answer:

First, you don't say what you are using for contraception. If you are using a hormonal method, this might indicate that you may need to change the formulation. That's really easy and we have lots of alternatives.

Second, you need to consider if you have any odor with the discharge. This could indicate that you have an infection that should be checked out.

Third, I'd consider whether you have a tampon "left" in your vagina. That sometimes can cause a brown discharge and then it will begin to smell bad. This can also happen if you have an early pregnancy. Because I don't know what you are using for contraception, that's a possibility.

Overall, if your previous recent exam was normal, there's probably no urgency if you don't have an infection or pregnancy. Usually, it's best to look to see if a new pattern for your periods is emerging and that takes more than one period. If it continues to do this for three months, then I'd get it checked out as long as there are no other indications that you might have an infection or have an unexpected pregnancy. Hope this helps.

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Response by:

Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University