black-womanYour early to mid-30s may well be your most regular years (outside of pregnancy) as your hormones settle into somewhat more predictable patterns. The 30s are sort of the gold standard of periods, but even then, there can be quite a bit of variation.

The moodiness, sore breasts, bloating, food cravings and sleep problems typical of premenstrual syndrome can worsen in the late 30s if ovulation becomes more erratic, causing estrogen to zoom up, then go into free fall. Cutting back on salt, caffeine and stress may help.

If you suffer from cramps, try ibuprofen, which can not only reduce pain but also decrease flow by one quarter to one half. If heavy flow is a problem, take ibuprofen at the start of ovulation to prevent the formation of prostaglandins. A particularly heavy period that’s not part of your usual pattern could signify that you didn’t ovulate that cycle or even that you had an early miscarriage before you knew you were pregnant.

Cramps tend to ease up considerably in this decade, unless you develop endometriosis, a condition in which cells from the uterine lining grow outside the uterus. Endometriosis can cause heavy, crampy periods. It’s more common in women over 30, doesn’t necessarily require medical intervention and resolves itself in menopause, when estrogen decreases. If it doesn’t improve, drug therapy, such as hormones, is an option. Surgery, including uterine ablation and hysterectomy, is effective, but an absolute last resort for endometriosis.

Causes for concern: Mid-cycle spotting, if not from a missed contraceptive pill, could suggest a cervical polyp, a usually benign lesion that’s detected in a pelvic exam and is easily removed.

Periods that become less regular in the 30s may signify premature ovarian insufficiency, which is linked to early menopause. For most people it’s not a problem, but if you’re seeking help for infertility issues, keep a record of the timing of your periods.