Irregular Period: Its Symptoms, Causes And Treatments
An irregular period is a condition in which a woman experiences an irregular menstrual cycle. Varying lengths of the menstrual cycle mark an irregular period, viz. the gap between each period starting keeps changing.
Menstruation is a stage of the menstrual cycle in which the uterus lining, known as the endometrium, is shed in the form of blood through the vaginal canal. A female gets her first period between 10 to 16 years of age. It continues till the age of 45 to 50 years, i.e., menopause.
After puberty, many women develop a regular cycle, but it is not uncommon for the cycle to vary by a few days each time. However, if such occurrences are continuous with long delays, it may suggest some underlying health issue.
In this article, we shall aim to shed some light on the symptoms of irregular periods and their potential causes, possible complications, and treatments.
Complete cessation of periods is called Amenorrah. Complete absence of periods for three months or more, unless a woman is pregnant, going through menopause or breastfeeding, is considered abnormal.
Infrequently occurring periods is termed Oligomenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea refers to the pain associated with periods and severe menstrual cramps.
Menorrhagia is the medical term for unusually excessive bleeding. It is accompanied by bleeding, which may last for more than seven days.
On average, a menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. It varies for different individuals ranging from 24 to 37 days. Bleeding occurs typically for 2 to 7 days. The gap between the starting of each period is usually similar.
Major symptoms of irregular periods are:
- The time between each period is not similar
- Unusually less or more amount of blood is shed during periods
- The number of days bleeding occurs keeps varying
- Unpredictable periods
- Missing four or more periods at once
- Periods lasting for seven days or more
There can be many potential reasons for irregular periods. Below listed are some common causes:
Life stages and pregnancy
In the first 2-3 years, an irregular period is common after the onset of menstruation. It takes a couple of years for estrogen and progesterone to balance.
Perimenopause is the transition stage to menopause that may cause an irregular period.
Irregular periods or spotting are some early signs of pregnancy.
The Postpartum Period
Periods are usually irregular during the post-pregnancy and breastfeeding period.
During breastfeeding, the body tends to produce prolactin. This hormone is responsible for suppressing reproductive hormones, leading to no periods or very light periods.
Sudden bodily activity and exercise may affect the menstrual cycle by elevating the metabolism.
Along with other negative impacts on the body, substance abuse also affects reproductive health and periods.
Medications such as oral contraceptive pills, ibuprofen, and antidepressants affect periods by throwing off the body’s hormonal balance.
The brain responds to stress by releasing excessive hormones. These hormones tend to disturb the menstrual cycle.
Undereating, lack of calories, and too much junk food in the diet affects the menstrual cycle. Extreme weight loss results in fatigue, weakness, and headaches, along with irregular menstrual cycles.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common medical conditions found in women, responsible for irregular periods. This condition leads to many harmless and tiny fluid-filled sacs developing in the ovaries.
Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) and high levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) may affect the period cycle.
Irregular periods in women is one of the major signs of diabetes as it progresses.
- Uterine Polyps and Uterine Fibroids
Both are non-cancerous growths in the lining of the uterus that extends to the uterine cavity. These cause heavy, unusual bleeding during or between periods.
Heavy bleeding or irregular periods may be an early sign of ovarian cancer or tumour.
It is a condition in which the cells that form the lining of the uterus are found outside it. Although it is not cancerous or painful, it may lead to irregular periods and infertility.
Irregular periods may sometimes lead to excessive blood loss resulting in anaemia. Unpredictable menstrual cycles are usually accompanied by headache, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and dizziness. A more serious case may result in any of the below-mentioned health issues:
- Chronic pelvic pain: It is a condition in which one experiences continuous stabbing pain in the pelvic region.
- Infertility or difficulty in conceiving
- Ectopic pregnancy: In this condition, an embryo develops outside the uterus
- Metastatic cancer
- Scarring of the fallopian tubes and pelvic adhesions
Treatment of irregular periods usually depends on the type of irregularity. Common treatments include fundamental lifestyle changes, practising yoga, and maintaining a healthy weight by avoiding obesity. Severe causes require special treatments that are listed below:
Consumption of Vitamins
Often, irregular periods can be due to low levels of vitamin D. It also has other health benefits like reducing the risk of depression and aiding in weight loss. Keep in mind, consumption of vitamin D supplements may aid to regulate periods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Consumption of 15ml of apple cider vinegar on a daily basis helps regulation of menstruation in women with PCOS and PCOD. It also aids in regulating insulin levels.
Oral contraceptives or hormonal contraceptives contain progesterone and estrogen. These hormones tend to override the body’s control of ovulation and menstrual cycle. Remember, contraceptives can be prescribed when there is infrequent or unusually less bleeding.
Metformin aids women with PCOS by reducing testosterone and insulin resistance production. This can regulate the menstrual cycle and improve the function of the ovaries. It is not as effective as oral contraceptive pills but reduces the risk of diabetes in diabetic women.
Dilation and curettage or D&C is a procedure in which the medical professional dilates the cervix and removes the tissues from the lining of the uterus. This treats the condition of heavy vaginal bleeding.
Surgery is most commonly used for removing cancerous tumours. Fibroids and polyps can also be removed by hysteroscopy.
Endometrial ablation is a procedure used by women who experience heavy bleeding. This method is usually adopted after periods fail to be regulated with medication. Uterus lining is destroyed in this method, leading to a decrease or stoppage of bleeding.
You can also read, 5 home remedies to regulate your periods.
Periods are one of the significant indicators of a woman’s health. Even though irregular periods can commonly be treated at home, it is suggested to take professional medical advice before adopting any home remedy.
Irregular periods may sometimes signal a problem with ovulation, which may later result in issues with conceiving. However, menstrual problems are often treatable when reported in the early stages.
Menstruation continues to be a topic of mystery to the doctors, as there is no one solution that fits all. Women should not let these issues take a toll on their daily lives; visit your doctor rather than struggling with them alone.
April 22, 2021 Sam Bell