If on the 10th straight day of fishing for a tampon in your bag you find yourself wondering Why is my period so long? you're not alone. You probably learned in health class that the typical period comes around once a month and lasts for about three to five days. But that's not always how it works—the length of a period varies from person to person and cycle to cycle.
Most of the time it's normal—just your unique biology doing it's thing. But there are some signs that might be cause for a trip to the gyno. Any period that lasts more than a week for more than three months in a row is worth bringing up with your doctor, says Sherry Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn and author.
Here are a few potential reasons you might notice longer-than-average or longer-than-usual periods—and what to do about it.
Your hormones are out of whack.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (a.k.a. PCOS), an underactive or overactive thyroid, and other disorders that mess with your sex hormone levels can cause long, heavy, or irregular periods, says Ross. If your period is abnormal or has changed significantly, you may want to see an endocrinologist to test for these conditions.
Your medication have been throwing things off.
Certain medications, like thyroid medication, steroids, and antipsychotics, can also disrupt your hormone levels. If you're on any of these meds, make sure you're taking it correctly, and talk to your doctor about alternatives if the problem persists.
Your weight recently changed.
If you have a longer-than-normal period and you've recently gained weight, that could be an indication that you're above your ideal weight, says Dr. Ross. Increased body fat leads to higher estrogen levels, which can make periods longer and heavier.
You're super stressed out.
Stress can affect your menstrual cycle in pretty much every way possible. It can sometimes lead your period to stop altogether. But other times, it can make your period longer or heavier or lead to mid-cycle bleeding. If you've noticed any changes in your period during a breakup, the death of a loved one, or another stressful event, talking to a mental health professional may be helpful.
You're being exposed to environmental estrogens.
Long periods typically occur due to a dominance of estrogen over progesterone in the body, explains physician Lorraine Maita, M.D. But estrogens outside your body, like those found in plastics, pesticides, and meat with added hormones, can have the same effect. To curb the effects of environmental estrogens, eat a diet high in fiber, which prevents excess estrogen from being absorbed, and go for produce without pesticides and hormone-free and antibiotic-free meat and dairy when possible.
If you're still wondering, Why is my period so damn long? Dr. Maita recommends downloading a period-tracking app so you're aware of what's normal for you. If you spot anything off, it's most likely not a serious problem, but it still can't hurt to get it checked out. Even if there's no underlying issue, the blood loss can leads to anemia or exhaustion, says Dr. Ross, so it's important to make whatever adjustments are necessary.
Originally Appeared on Glamour