We have been told time and again that periods come on a monthly basis, which means that they should repeat on the exact date almost every month. But every woman is different, not only anatomically, but also with respect to their menstrual cycle, and hence, not everyone’s periods arrive on time. Rather, there are bound to be some hits and misses, because periods, like most bodily functions, can be unpredictable.
An average woman gets her periods every 24 - 38 days and it is supposed to last between a period of 3 and 7 days. Nonetheless, for many women, that does not seem to be the case and our menstrual cycle seems to go off track on a more atypical curve. This gives rise to a condition called irregular periods, which makes one wonder: Are your periods irregular? And if yes, what can be done to set them back on their normal track?
What are Irregular Periods?
Irregular periods is a condition that results when the length between two menstrual cycles is more than 35 days or if the duration of the period varies too often. This phenomenon is also called oligomenorrhea and can occur when:
- The time between each period starts to change
- Losing more or less blood during each period
- The number of days that your period lasts vary a lot
Basically, the occurrence of missed, delayed, erratic periods with abnormal bleeding patterns can be irregular period’s symptoms.
What can cause Irregular Periods?
Since every woman has a different body type, the factors that determine the course of her periods also change. But hormonal changes can predominantly influence the occurrence of periods. There two hormones controlling periods: estrogen and progesterone impact menstruation and have a tendency to disrupt the cycle. Other than that, here are few other things that can be an irregular period’s cause:
- IUD and other forms of contraceptives
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Too much exercise
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Over or under active thyroid
- Uterine fibroids
Complications of Irregular Periods
Irregular periods can sometimes highlight underlying health troubles that can cause further problems like fertility issues. We have listed some of the health issues that can result due to irregular periods:
Women with PCOS do not release an egg every month which causes ovulation and hence, periods. Such women experience symptoms like obesity, acne, weight loss or gain, irregular or no periods, excess hair growth and higher levels of the male hormone.
The thyroid glands present in our body produce a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone, which helps affect the release of ovum from the ovaries. Hence, fluctuations in these hormones can cause irregularities in period functions, including but not limited to, abnormal menstruation.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the cell lining the inside the uterus, grows outside it. The lining is called endometrium and it is only when this lining sheds, that one experiences periods. The cellular growth found during endometriosis is not cancerous, but is painful and can cause infertility or irregular periods.
Irregular Periods Treatment
There isn’t a specific cure for delayed periods, unless one is sure that there’s an underlying health issue triggering this abnormality. Therefore, we have listed some of the common forms of treatment used for the most commonly found complications during irregular periods:
Irregular periods can occur when the hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle keep fluctuating. Therefore, if the hormone balance is restored, your periods can get back to normal. Thyroid issues and PCOS can both be treated by this method, by taking thyroid hormones and birth control pills to trigger your period. Doctors may prescribe pills having the hormones progesterone and oestrogen to help control abnormal menstruation.
Stress and excessive exercise can also cause an abnormality in the normal functioning of one’s periods. Therefore, managing your stress by talking to a counsellor or managing your day-to-day activities in a timely fashion can help eliminate some of the stress that may be the cause of irregular periods. Since irregular periods are also affected if you exert your body too much, you may also need to work out or do exercises that don’t physically tire your body as much which could help in changing the timespan of your periods.
For extreme cases like scarring or structural problems in the womb (endometriosis or fibroids), your doctor may recommend surgery. Call the doctor if you bleed for more than 7 days within a span of 21 - 25 days or when you’ve missed more than 3 periods in a year. The doctor may conduct a physical exam or review family history to know why you have irregular periods and decide upon this course of action.
Irregular periods are quite normal in our daily lives and most of the time, they are induced by stress. The good thing is that they can be cured and this can be done with ease with the help of a medical professional. At times, proper care and nutrition of one’s body and ensuring that the body is not under much duress physically or mentally can also help combat irregular periods.