We all hear that a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle is around 28 days in length or being ‘monthly’. But actually, only about half of exercising women have a clinically defined normal cycle.

There are lots of different types of menstrual dysfunctions. Some of them are more common than others, and there are many reasons for why they might occur.

In this article, we give a brief definition of many of the menstrual dysfunctions women experience.*

AMENORRHEA – There are two types of amenorrhea; primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea is defined as not starting to menstruate (have a period) before aged 16, and secondary amenorrhea is defined as having 3-6 missed periods. Found to affect about 10% of women, but in athletes, prevalence could be as high as 66%.  

OLIGOMENORRHEA – Having an irregular cycle, often having a cycle that is longer than 35 days long. This affects about a third of women, and again, is more common in athletes.  

POLYMENORRHEA – Having short cycles, less than 21 days in length, affecting about 4% of women.

DYSMENORRHEA- defined as ‘painful cramping, usually in the lower abdomen’ that occurs just before and/or during menstruation, ie. painful periods.

PMS- Premenstrual syndrome is a term used to describe the chronic physical and psychological symptoms a woman may experience in the days and weeks before her period (in the luteal phase).


MENORRHAGIA- heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as greater than 80ml of blood loss during menstruations and/or blood loss occurring over 7 days or more. It can greatly interfere with quality of life and everyday activities.

PCOS- Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine function disorder characterised by irregular periods, elevated production of male hormones and polycystic ovaries.

ENDOMETRIOSIS- a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, grows on pelvic organs outside the uterus such as on the ovaries or fallopian tubes.

PMDD-Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a more serious variant of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It is a diagnosable psychiatric disorder and characterised by debilitating physical and psychological symptoms occurring during the late luteal phase (phase 4) which have a significantly negative impact on a woman’s ability to live everyday life.

* Information on FitrWoman’s ‘Resources’ pages are intended as general information only and should not be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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