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Your Period and Cycling Through the Decades by Stacie Colino

Posted Sep 22 2010 5:28am

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As you get older, your period, like the rest of your body, evolves. Here’s what to expect.

In Your 20s

Your biggest concern is probably cramps, since they tend to be worse when you’re younger. The culprit: the prostaglandins that your body produces to stimulate contractions in your uterus in order for the lining to shed, explains David Plourd, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Head off pain by taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen just before your period arrives or at the first sign of cramps.

In Your 30s

If you’ve had a baby, it can take 6 months or longer for your period to get back into a groove. Don’t rely on breastfeeding as birth control unless you’re doing it 100 percent exclusively; you can get pregnant even if your period hasn’t come back. Fortunately, menstrual cramps usually ease up after childbirth.

By your late 30s your cycles may become shorter as fertility starts to drop off (the most dramatic decline is from ages 35 to 40). “Your cycles may go from, say, 30 days to 27,” says Barry Witt, MD, medical director of the Greenwich Fertility Center in Connecticut.

In Your 40s

PMS can get worse and your periods may become unpredictable, thanks to hormonal changes as you inch closer to menopause, Dr. Plourd explains. You’re less likely to ovulate, but don’t ditch the birth control. “The second-highest unintended pregnancy rate is in women in their 40s,” notes Dr. Plourd.

In Your 50s and Beyond

Chances are your periods are coming less frequently, if at all. Once you’ve gone a full year without one, you’re officially in menopause (the average age is 51½). That means PMS symptoms are history! Birth control will also be a thing of the past, but if you have a new partner, don’t forget condoms: The rate of STDs is increasing in people age 45 and older. If vaginal thinness and dryness becomes a problem, you can use try vaginal moisturizers and lubricants or vaginal estrogens, which thicken the vaginal wall to combat oversensitivity.

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