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can a std stop your period

By: RSC Editorial Team

January 5, 2022

Can an STD Stop Your Period? What You Need to Know

A late period can make you stare at the calendar in nail-biting suspension – or run out late at night to get a pregnancy test. However, once you’ve ruled out pregnancy but your period still hasn’t started, you may wonder what has caused this lapse in your cycle.

Many factors, from stress to hormonal disruptions, can cause irregular menstrual cycles. Women who suspect exposure to a sexually transmitted infection may also wonder, “Can an STD stop my period?”

The answer is usually no – but STDs can still impact your reproductive health in profound and lasting ways. A rapid STD test can help you rule out or confirm many common STDs.

What Do Women Feel During Their Period?

Vaginal bleeding is the most obvious and well-known symptom of periods. Menstrual discharge usually starts with a heavy blood flow in the first 1-2 days. In the next 2-3 days, the flow typically lightens until it turns to brown spotting and then disappears completely.

The length of the menstrual cycle, length of the period, and amount of blood flow vary among women. Some experience periods as short as two days, while for others the period may last for a week or more.

Typically, women menstruate once in 28 days, but some may experience cycles as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days. Periods are often longer and heavier in the first few years starting from the onset of menses at puberty.

Apart from bleeding, women may deal with a host of other unpleasant experiences before and during menstruation. PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) and period symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Lower back pain
  • Heavy or sore breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle aches
  • Acne, herpes, or yeast infection outbreaks

Of course, period symptoms differ from woman to woman. Some barely notice any difference in their overall feeling during this time, while others spend a few days in bed with severe cramps and fatigue.

Moreover, an individual woman may notice that some of her periods are lighter or heavier compared to what’s normal for her. Changes in menstrual flow or frequency may occur due to the effects of birth control pills, hormonal fluctuations, weight gain or loss, and other factors.

What Is Considered Normal or Abnormal Bleeding?

Your menstrual cycle begins in your brain. The hypothalamus, which acts as a control center for many bodily functions, sends a signal to the pituitary gland to produce hormones that make your ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone. One function of estrogen and progesterone is to prepare your uterus for pregnancy.

If no pregnancy occurs, your uterus will begin to shed its lining at the end of your cycle, typically on day 28. That is when menstrual flow begins for most women. Many women, particularly those who suffer from severe Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) or heavy periods, prepare for the end of their cycle with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and a hot water bottle.

Heavy or abnormal bleeding is a common period complaint. Keep in mind, however, that what’s normal for one woman may be a red flag for another. You know your body best, so pay attention to any irregular menstrual patterns or changes in flow, such as:

  • A very long period (hypermenorrhea)
  • A very short period (hypomenorrhea)
  • Excessive bleeding volume
  • Abnormally light bleeding
  • Frequent periods (polymenorrhea)
  • Periods that occur too far apart (oligomenorrhea)

Cycles often come out of sync because of irregular ovulation, which can occur for many reasons. Some causes for irregular ovulation patterns include extremely high or low body weight, stress, hormonal disruptions, or thyroid dysfunction. Breastfeeding women often experience lactational amenorrhea, aka complete lack of periods, for many months.

Treating an irregular menstrual pattern requires diagnosing the underlying cause. Women with erratic periods will need a comprehensive ob/gyn examination and often an endocrinology screening.

Additionally, what looks like an unusually heavy period may be an early miscarriage or a sign of ectopic pregnancy. In other cases, women assume they have had a very light period when in fact what they experienced is implantation bleeding, which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus lining. Implantation bleeding happens at about the time when a period is supposed to begin, which makes it easy to mistake one for another.

The bottom line is that if you experience any alterations in your menstrual pattern, rule out pregnancy and talk to your ob/gyn about any recurring menstrual abnormalities.

Can a Sexually Transmitted Disease Stop Your Period?

Does an STD stop your period? In a nutshell, usually not – at least not until you suffer from serious complications. Many common STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, mycoplasma genitalium, and genital herpes can lurk quietly in your system for months or even years without any visible symptoms. Alternatively, symptoms can be so nonspecific that you may not suspect you have an STD, especially if you are in a long-term monogamous relationship.

However, a connection between STDs and your period does exist. In particular, you are more vulnerable to contracting an STI while you are menstruating.

Right before your flow begins, your cervix opens slightly to release the blood. While your cervix is open, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens can reach the upper cervix and the uterus more easily. This is true for most common STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV.

Additionally, during most of your cycle the vagina usually maintains a protective acidic environment that lowers the risk of contracting STIs. During menstruation, the vagina becomes more alkaline, which makes it far easier for pathogens to survive. That’s why practicing safe sex is doubly important during menstruation.

What about rapid STD testing while you’re on your period? In most cases, there’s no reason to delay testing until after your period is over. Learn whether you can take an STI test while on period.

Will STD stop your period? While not very likely, it can happen in some cases if a bacteria or virus spreads and does extensive damage to your reproductive system. However, every sexually active person should get tested for STDs at least once a year, or more often if you engage in unprotected sex or have multiple partners.

Untreated STDs can have serious consequences, including persistent pain and discomfort, a range of inflammatory diseases, reduced fertility, and often-overlooked bladder issues. Learn about STDs that cause frequent urination.

What Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one potentially grave consequence of undiagnosed and untreated STIs. The answer to the “Could an STD stop your period?” question changes for women with PID. This severe condition definitely can cause irregular or excessively heavy periods, as well as spotting between periods.

So what is pelvic inflammatory disease? PID can occur when a pathogen, usually but not always a sexually transmitted bacteria like chlamydia or gonorrhea, spreads across the female reproductive tract, including the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and pelvis.

Health care providers often have difficulty diagnosing PID because of its inconsistent, nonspecific, and sometimes nonexistent symptoms. PID can occur in the form of:

  • Acute PID. The acute form of PID may manifest in high fever, severe lower abdominal pain, fainting, or vomiting. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, go to the ER right away.
  • Chronic PID. Chronic PID usually involves prolonged but vague complaints such as pelvic pain during intercourse, urinary problems, irregular menstrual bleeding, heavier periods with painful cramping, spotting between cycles, and abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Silent PID. In many cases, PID may cause silent but devastating damage to a woman’s reproductive system without any outward signs.

Often, women get diagnosed for PID only when they fail to conceive and struggle to find out the reason for their fertility problems. Untreated PID can lead to abscesses and scar tissue in the fallopian tubes and ovaries. About one in ten women with PID will become infertile.

PID may also lead to:

  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Increased risk of miscarriages and stillbirths
  • Higher incidence to premature births and low birth weight in infants

The life-altering and often permanent effects of PID underline the importance of early screening and treatment. It’s especially important to get tested for STDs if you have a new partner, if you and your exclusive partner plan to stop using condoms, or if you are hoping to conceive.

While PID is treatable, no treatment can reverse the scarring and reproductive system damage the infection may have caused. PID treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics that target the specific bacteria present in your system. Be sure to complete the entire treatment course, even if any acute symptoms subside before that.
  • Treatment for your sexual partner. While your partner may have no symptoms, they likely carry the same bacteria and could re-infect you without appropriate treatment.
  • Temporary abstinence. Your health care provider may recommend that you avoid all sexual intercourse until you complete your treatment course and your symptoms disappear.

If you are pregnant and have PID, let your doctor know at once to make sure they prescribe antibiotics suitable for use during pregnancy.

We hope this overview helped clear up the question of “Can an STD stop your period?” and busted some common misconceptions about STDs and the menstrual cycle.

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By: RSC Editorial Team
January 5, 2022

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