Irregular periods

Menstrual Health – Irregular Periods

  • Irregular periods are menstrual cycles that fall outside the usual range of 38 days.

  • They can be caused by factors like stress, weight gain or loss, PCOS, thyroid disorders, and hormonal imbalances. 

  • Irregular periods aren’t the same as menstrual disorders like heavy or painful periods.

Irregular periods
Irregular periods
We are in a busy season when many pay less attention to the irregularities going on in their body system, even though many women struggle with irregular periods, which can lead to a range of complications, including infertility, while some causes of irregular periods are benign, such as stress or lifestyle factors.
Others can be indicative of more severe conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), these are more reasons it will be a healthy decision to understand the importance of menstrual health and how it affects overall health.

Medical issues associated with irregular periods

1. Endometriosis  and irregular periods

Ectopic occurrence of endometrial tissue, frequently forming cysts containing altered blood. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside your uterus. 
The symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding and infertility. 


2. Pelvic inflammatory disease and irregular periods

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an inflammation of female pelvic structures due to infection by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, or other organisms, typically a complication of sexually transmitted infection (STI) of the lower genital tract and may be precipitated by menstruation, parturition, or surgical procedures including abortion; complications include tubo-ovarian abscess, tubal stenosis with resulting infertility or sterility and heightened risk of ectopic pregnancy, and peritoneal adhesions.


3. Fibroids and irregular periods

Fibroids are abnormal growths composed of fibers that develop in or on the uterus. They are also called leiomyomas or myomas. 
Sometimes these tumors become quite large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. In most cases, they cause no signs or symptoms at all.


Other 7 common causes of irregular periods

Here are the common causes of irregular periods:

1. Hormonal imbalances 

Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH, regulate the menstrual cycle. In a situation where hormones are not balanced or are produced in the wrong amounts, it can cause periods to become irregular. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid issues, or problems with the pituitary gland can all mess with hormone levels and lead to irregular periods. 
Even certain medications or types of birth control can throw things off. If you’re experiencing irregular periods, it’s always a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider to get to the root of the issue and figure out the best way to get things back on track.


2. Stress

Stress is a common contributing factor to irregular periods in women. When body experiences high levels of stress, which can cause hypothalamus in the brain not to function properly and consequently the production of hormones necessary for menstrual cycles. This can result in a delay or even complete absence of menstruation
Stress can also affect woman adrenal glands, that produce the hormone cortisol, and an imbalance in cortisol levels can further disrupt the menstrual cycle.
To maintain regular menstrual cycles and general reproductive health, it is necessary to address and manage stress through various methods such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and counseling.


3. Weight changes

Weight fluctuations can disrupt the menstrual cycle and create irregular periods. Fast weight gain can cause estrogen levels to rise, resulting in heavier or irregular periods, whereas quick weight reduction might cause estrogen levels to fall, resulting in missing periods or lighter periods. 
Keeping a healthy weight through a balanced diet and exercise can help regulate the menstrual cycle, but if you are suffering recurrent irregular periods owing to weight fluctuations, it is always better to visit a healthcare specialist.


4. Thyroid disorders

Thyroid diseases can cause menstrual cycle disruption by altering hormone levels. An overactive thyroid can cause periods to become lighter or cease, but an underactive thyroid can cause periods to get heavier and longer. 
Thyroid issues can also induce exhaustion, weight fluctuations, and mood swings, which can exacerbate menstruation abnormalities. 


5. Perimenopause

Perimenopause, time preceding menopause, can produce irregular periods owing to falling estrogen levels. Hormone fluctuations can cause menstrual abnormalities such as heavier, lighter, or infrequent periods, as well as other symptoms such as hot flashes, nocturnal sweats, and mood changes. 
These irregularities may persist for several months or even years before periods stop altogether. While it is a natural process, it’s still important to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out any other underlying conditions that may be causing menstrual irregularities.


6. Birth control

On initiating a new form of contraception, birth control can produce irregular periods as the body adjusts to changes in hormone levels. During the first few months of using a new birth control technique, women may suffer missing periods or spotting. 
Some birth control methods, such as the hormonal IUD or implant, can also induce irregular bleeding or halt periods entirely. If you’re having irregular periods beyond the initial adjustment phase, or if your bleeding is severe or protracted, you should visit a doctor.


7. Illness

Illness can disrupt menstrual cycles by altering hormone levels or causing abnormal growths on reproductive organs. High fevers or severe illnesses can cause menstrual irregularities, while chronic illnesses like diabetes or thyroid disorders can impact menstrual cycles due to changes in hormone levels or weight changes. 
Certain conditions like PCOS or endometriosis can also cause menstrual irregularities due to hormonal imbalances. Seeking medical advice is crucial if experiencing persistent menstrual irregularities along with other symptoms of illness to rule out any underlying conditions causing the irregularities.


Understanding irregular periods

Before diving into how to manage irregular periods, it’s crucial to understand what they are and what can cause them. Irregular periods are menstrual cycles that fall outside the usual range of 38 days. 
Many women find it difficult to predict when their next period will occur because of the change in length that may be caused by several factors like, stress, weight gain or loss, PCOS, thyroid disorders, and hormonal imbalances.


What is an irregular period?

Normally, menstrual periods should last between four to seven days and occur roughly every 28 days but they become irregular periods when a woman’s menstrual cycle isn’t always within this normal duration. 
It either occurs early or late and may vary in how long it lasts or how heavy it is each time. 
A normal menstrual cycle lasts 24 to 38 days. It is considered irregular when it is shorter than 24 days or longer than 38 days. 
Your menstrual cycle may also be irregular if it varies by more than 20 days in length from month to month. 


Irregular periods and menstrual disorders 

It’s important to note that irregular periods aren’t the same as menstrual disorders like heavy or painful periods. 
While irregular periods can indicate an underlying condition, they can also occur without any significant health concerns. That being said, irregular periods can impact overall health and fertility, so it’s essential to address them when they occur.


Managing an irregular period

When it comes to managing irregular periods, there are several lifestyle and nutritional changes you can make to help regulate your menstrual cycle.
1. The first thing is to keep a watchful eye on your menstrual cycle by maintaining a period diary or using a period-tracking app.  This will help you identify patterns and track changes in your menstrual cycle. This is important for both managing irregular periods and also help you on what to tell your healthcare provider.
2. Maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight or underweight can cause irregular periods.
3. Exercise regularly as it helps regulate hormones and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to support hormonal balance.
5. Try to avoid smoking and alcohol consumption as they can affect hormonal balance and cause irregular periods.
6. Management of stress levels through meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques because stress can interfere with the menstrual cycle.
7. Get enough sleep as sleep deprivation can affect hormonal balance and lead to irregular periods.
8. Consider using hormonal birth control, such as the pill, patch, or IUD, as they can help regulate periods.
9. Consult a healthcare provider if you experience severe pain or heavy bleeding during periods or if you miss periods for more than three consecutive months.
10. Be patient as it may take time for your body to adjust to lifestyle changes or hormonal treatments, but  consistent efforts can help manage irregular periods effectively.


When should you seek medical help for irregular periods?

  • When you notice irregular periods are accompanied by severe pain or discomfort
  • If periods are consistently irregular
  • A period having heavy bleeding or fatigue is experienced
  • There are underlying conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, or fibroids
  • There is a sudden change in your menstrual cycle, such as going from regular periods to irregular ones
  • Irregular periods interfering with your normal daily life, work, or other social activities
  • Experiencing other symptoms like acne, and weight gain
  • If you are trying to conceive and are having trouble due to irregular periods
  • When getting closer to menopause and experiencing irregular periods as a result of hormonal changes
  • If you have a history of cancer, as irregular periods can sometimes be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer


In conclusion, irregular periods can be caused by a variety of circumstances, including stress, weight fluctuations, hormone imbalances, and medical diseases such as endometriosis, PID, fibroids, and thyroid abnormalities.
Prioritizing menstrual health and seeking medical care if experiencing abnormalities is critical, since it can lead to issues such as infertility.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress, and getting medical care when needed can all help to regulate the menstrual cycle and promote overall reproductive health. Remember to prioritize your health and well-being by getting medical assistance when needed.


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