Irregular periods: Things you need to know

The normal length of the menstrual cycle of a woman is 28 days, but between individuals, this varies. When the length of the cycle is longer than 35 days, or if the duration varies, irregular menstruation occurs.

The part of the menstrual cycle in which the endometrium is shed, which is the lining of the uterus, is a period or menstruation. This appears as bleeding that is released through the vagina from the womb.

Periods usually start between 10 and 16 years of age during puberty and continue until menopause, when a woman is 45- to 55-year-old.

If there is a change in the method of contraception, a hormone imbalance, hormonal changes around the time of menopause, and endurance workouts, irregular periods, also called oligomenorrhea, can occur.

Treatment for irregular periods during puberty and around menopause is not usually necessary, but medical advice may be needed if irregular periods occur during the reproductive years.

Causes

In regular menstruation, a woman’s cycle follows a predictable pattern.
In regular menstruation, a woman’s cycle follows a predictable pattern.

The chance of irregular menstruation is enhanced by a number of factors. Most are related to the production of hormones. Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that affect menstruation. These are the cycle-regulating hormones.

Hormonal influences

Puberty, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth, and breastfeeding are life cycle changes that influence hormonal balance.

The body undergoes major changes during puberty. Ostrogen and progesterone can take several years to achieve a balance, and at this time, irregular periods are common.

Women often have irregular periods prior to menopause, and the amount of blood shed may vary. Menopause happens when 12 months have passed since the last menstrual period for a woman. A woman will have no more periods after menopause.

Menstruation ceases during pregnancy, and most women do not have periods while they are breast-feeding.

Irregular bleeding can be caused by contraceptives. Heavy bleeding can be caused by an intrauterine device (IUD), whereas the contraceptive pill can cause spotting between periods.

She can experience small bleeds that are usually shorter and lighter than normal periods when a woman first uses the contraceptive pill. These usually disappear after a couple of months.

Other changes which are linked to irregular periods include:

  • extreme weight loss
  • extreme weight gain
  • emotional stress
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • endurance exercise, for example, marathon running.

Missed or irregular menstruation is also connected to a number of disorders.

Symptoms

A menstrual cycle lasts around 28 days, but, depending on the individual, it can vary from 24 days to 35 days.

Each year, most females have between 11 and 13 menstrual periods. Bleeding generally takes about 5 days, but it can vary from 2 to 7 days, too.

It can take up to 2 years to establish a regular cycle when menstruation first starts. Most women’s menstruation is routine after puberty. Similar is the length of time between each period.

However the time between periods and the quantity of blood shed varies considerably for some women. This is referred to as irregular menstruation.

When the cycle is longer than 35 days, or if it varies in length, the main symptom of irregular menstruation is

This is also considered irregular if there are changes in blood flow, or if clots appear that are over 2.5 centimeters in diameter.

Complications

Sometimes, irregular periods can indicate a health problem, and some of these can lead to further problems, such as fertility problems.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries develop a number of small, fluid-filled sacs known as cysts.

There is no ovulation for a woman with PCOS and she does not release an egg every month. Irregular or no periods, obesity, acne, and excess hair growth are symptoms.

Male sex hormone, androgen, or testosterone levels are unusually high for women with PCOS.

PCOS affects between 10 percent and 20 women of reproductive age, or up to 5 million American women, according to the Office on Women’s Health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. PCOS has been diagnosed in girls as young as 11 years old.

Cancer of the uterus
Cancer of the uterus or the cervix can cause unusual bleeding.

Irregular periods may be caused by a thyroid disorder. The thyroid gland generates hormones that control the metabolism of the body.

In rare cases, cervical or uterine cancer, or womb cancer, can cause bleeding between periods or during sexual intercourse.

Endometriosis is a disease in which cells, called endometrial cells, that are usually located within the uterus develop outside the uterus. In other words, outside of it the lining of the inside of the uterus is located.

Endometrial cells are the cells that menstruate every month, so during their childbearing years, endometriosis is more likely to affect women.

The cellular formation involved in endometriosis is not cancerous. No symptoms can occur, but it can be painful and may lead to other problems. It may damage the tissue if the released blood gets trapped in the surrounding tissue, causing extreme pain, irregular cycles, and infertility.

A female reproductive system infection is a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Among women, apart from AIDS, it is the most prevalent and severe complication of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It can be treated with antibiotics if it is diagnosed early, but if it spreads, it can affect the fallopian tubes and the uterus, causing chronic or long-term pain. There are several signs, including bleeding after sex and between periods.

Home remedies

It may help to reduce the risk of some of the causes of irregular periods by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

This includes:

  • exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress
  • following a healthful diet

Some herbal remedies are all said to help, such as black cohosh, chasteberry, licorice root, and turmeric, but their effectiveness has not been proven by studies, and they may have adverse effects. It is better to speak to a doctor first.

Treatment

Therapy, if necessary, will depend on the cause.

Puberty and menopause: Treatment is usually not necessary for irregular periods that occur during puberty or as a woman approaches menopause.

Birth control: If irregular bleeding is caused by contraception and continues for several months, the woman should discuss other options with a health care professional.

PCOS and obesity: Overweight or weight-loss obesity may help stabilize menstruation in cases of PCOS. A lower weight means that so much insulin does not need to be produced by the body. This results in lower levels of testosterone and a better chance of ovulating.

Thyroid Problems: Treatment is likely to be prescribed for the underlying problem. Medication, radioactive iodine therapy or surgery may include this.

Stress and eating disorders: Psychological therapy may help if irregular periods have been triggered by emotional stress, an eating disorder, or sudden weight loss. This may include techniques for relaxation, management of stress, and talking to a therapist.

Medication

Metformin, an insulin-lowering oral drug for type 2 diabetes, may be prescribed by a doctor to help ensure ovulation and regular periods.

A low-dose birth control pill that contains a mixture of progesterone and estrogen may help. This will reduce the production of androgen and will help to correct abnormal bleeding.

Alternatively, it is likely that periods will be controlled by taking progesterone for 10 to 14 days each month.

Pregnancy

Irregular periods can indicate a fertility problem, but that is not always the case. There may be ovulation, even while menstruation is irregular.

Here are some things you can do to track ovulation:

  • Mark any periods on a calendar, and look for patterns.
  • Check for changes in cervical mucus. As ovulation approaches, the mucus will be more plentiful, slippery, clear, and stretchy.
  • Take your temperature each day and note when it spikes. This can indicate that ovulation is occurring.

These records will help a doctor reach a diagnosis if irregular periods are linked to fertility issues.

Medical advice should be sought by anyone concerned about irregular menstruation.

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