Every woman throughout her life could say she had an irregular period at some point but it is not always considered to be a warning sign. Nevertheless, a trip to your doctor could set things straight because when it comes to our health, abnormal or irregular should not be present in our bodies.
What could be defined as an ‘Irregular Period’?
An irregular period is when the time between your menstrual cycle keeps shifting. A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days and a few days earlier or later is not considered irregular. The director of the Evora Center of Menopause and Sexual Health and a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Saint Louis University in Missouri, Becky Lynn, MD says that a normal menstrual cycle is between 21 to 35 days and one could determine by herself whether she has an irregular period. On your next menstruation keep in mind the last day of it and count until the first day of your next period and repeat this for three months.
It takes up to 2 years for the menstruation to establish a normal cycle after it first started. Bleeding lasts up to 5 days but it can vary from 2 to 7 days.
The main symptom of an irregular period is when the cycle is more than 35 days or less than 21. Other symptoms might be:
- missing periods
- periods lasting more than 7 days
- heavy menstrual bleeding
There could be many factors that could play a role in your menstrual irregularity but not all of them come from a serious health problem.
Pay attention to your stress levels. Are you on a new diet or have you lost or gained weight lately? A simple change in your lifestyle could have an impact on your menstrual cycle not to mention if you’re under a lot of stress or you’re going tough a time.
Having an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders could also cause an abnormal period.
Obesity is not good for your estrogen levels. A high level of estrogen causes irregular, heavy or even missed periods.
Are you on medications? Steroids, anticoagulant drugs or drugs for epilepsy or anxiety should be taken into consideration as well
Take a look at your hormone production. The 2 hormones that regulate the cycle are estrogen and progesterone. Whether you are on contraceptive pills or an intrauterine device, your menstrual cycle is prone to change but these changes usually disappear after a few months.
Take into consideration an early pregnancy.
Puberty or the start of menopause could also cause you abnormal periods.
Very high-intensity training performed by athletes or marathon runners.
Irregular periods could also be caused by a number of health problems which are listed below.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) causes not only irregular periods but also multiple ovarian cysts and hormonal imbalance because a woman with PCOS does not ovulate. They have a higher level of male sex hormones and symptoms such as obesity, excess hair growth and acne are usually present.
”PCOS affects between 10 per cent and 20 women of reproductive age, or up to 5 million American women. Girls as young as 11 years old have been diagnosed with PCOS”, according to the Office on Women’s Health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Uterine Polyps or Fibroids. They are small, usually benign tumours that grow on the wall of the uterus. They cause heavy bleeding and pain during periods.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). For women under the age of 40, the menstrual cycle stops or is just very irregular. POI could also occur due to cancer treatment or if there’s a family history of POI.
Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID). It is a bacterial infection that affects the reproductive system. This is a sexually transmitted infection that causes irregular periods, heavy discharge, pain in the pelvic, fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
Endometriosis. It occurs when the endometrial tissues start to grow outside the uterus and it attaches to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or even on the intestines of other organs on the lower digestive tract.
Type 1 and 2 diabetes may be a cause for irregular periods.
Cervical or uterine cancer.
When to see a doctor
Anything that is irregular in your body could lead to serious health problems if left untreated. If you are still going through puberty, a few abnormalities are not always a concern but other than that you should pay attention to any change to your menstrual cycle.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you suddenly have irregular periods or your period comes more often than every 21 days or less often than 35 days.
Treatment could vary from one woman to another and the cause of the irregularity helps set up a particular treatment plan.
Your doctor could prescribe you hormonal contraception which may include: birth control pills, uterine devices with progesterone or just progesterone pills, vaginal contraceptive rings, or hormonal implants. You will discuss with your doctor the best treatment for you and while you are treating the cause, there are also a number of pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen which could help.
For patients with PCOS and obesity, losing weight is the first step because it may help stabilize the period. Lower weight means that the body does not produce extra insulin and in this way, the testosterone level decreases.
I personally had the irregular periods problem and many doctors confirmed it to be because of POI. I tried many medications, but it still had no effect, until I started to pay more attention to my thyroid health. Taking a regular normal amount of iodine (also prescribed by a doctor) helped me regulate my hormone production and therefore regulated the period cycle.
For any type of stress, you may want to talk to a therapist and include in your daily routine relaxation exercises.
Yoga, Exercise, and Healthy Lifestyle.
A 2013 study with 126 participants found that 35 to 40 minutes of yoga, 5 days a week for 6 months lowered hormone levels related to irregular menstruation. Also, regular exercise and a healthier lifestyle could help you with irregular periods and PCOS.
Include in your diet ginger, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, oceanic fish, and pineapple.
A study published in 2015 stated that Vitamin D may help normalize your menstruation.