The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women
Michelle Lopez Alora Gale Precious Jackson Nina Martinez Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga Loreen Willenberg  
Michelle Alora Precious Nina Gracia Loreen  

Menstrual Changes and HIV

October 24, 2015

 1  |  2  |  Next > 
Menstrual Changes and HIV

Table of Contents

HIV and Menstrual Problems

Many women living with HIV (HIV+) experience menstrual changes (changes in their periods). It is important to discuss any changes with your health care provider.

The changes women living with HIV may experience include:

  • Irregular periods:

    • Different in frequency (how often)
    • Different in duration (how long)
    • Different in amount (lighter or heavier)
  • Missed periods
  • No period for more than 90 days (amenorrhea)
  • Spotting (spots of blood between periods)

Studies have found that menstrual irregularities (changes to your menstrual cycle) are less common if you have a high CD4 cell count and are taking HIV drugs. Menstrual irregularities are more common if you have a low CD4 cell count or high viral load or are significantly below your ideal body weight.

How Does HIV Cause Problems?

We are not sure exactly how HIV affects women's menstrual cycles. However, we do know that, as HIV gets worse, changes in your immune system can affect the way your body makes and maintains levels of different hormones including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Changes in the amount of estrogen or progesterone could result in a number of menstrual changes for women living with HIV.

Research has shown that women with more advanced HIV disease (CD4 counts below 200), were more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles. Some of the factors that are more likely to occur in women with advanced HIV (wasting and loss of body fat, anemia, nutritional problems) can also lead to menstrual changes because they affect the hormones that control your menstrual cycle. It is important to know that these same issues also affect the menstrual cycles of women who are HIV-negative. For example, women with very low body fat (e.g., elite athletes), women with chronic illnesses not related to HIV, and women with low iron (one cause of anemia), are more likely to have irregular periods or no periods at all.

Finding the Cause of Menstrual Problems

Because there are many possible reasons for menstrual changes, it is very important to have regular check-ups with your women's health care provider (often known as a "gynecologist" or "GYN") and to discuss any changes to your menstrual cycle.

Women living with HIV are more likely to be infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. Therefore, it is recommended that women living with HIV get a test to look for cervical cancer regularly. For more information about gyn care and tests for HPV and cervical cancer, see The Well Project's article, Caring for a Woman's Body: What Every Woman Should Know about the Care and Prevention of GYN Problems.

If you miss two or more periods in a row, have heavy bleeding, or have bleeding between periods, see your women's health care provider for a pelvic examination, a test for cervical cancer, and blood tests. These blood tests may check your red blood cell and platelet counts as well as your estrogen and progesterone levels. They will likely test for pregnancy and common sexually transmitted infections (like Chlamydia) that can affect your reproductive system. Your health care provider may also use additional tests such as ultrasound (sonography) to check for causes of irregular periods.

Possible causes for irregular periods include:

  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Pregnancy
  • Opportunistic infections
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Pre-menopause or menopause
 1  |  2  |  Next > 

More From This Resource Center

Newly Diagnosed? Words of Encouragement from HIV-Positive Women

What Every HIV-Positive Woman Should Know About GYN Care and Prevention

Related Stories

Menstrual Problems

This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.

No comments have been made.

Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:

Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining:

The content on this page is free of advertiser influence and was produced by our editorial team. See our advertising policy.

See Also
Newly Diagnosed? Words of Encouragement from HIV-Positive Women
What Did You Expect While You Were Expecting?
HIV Tools You Can Use