Irregular Periods: Causes and Treatment

A normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, plus or minus seven days. Menstrual bleeding is considered irregular if it occurs more frequently than every 21 days or lasts longer than 8 days. Missed, early, or late periods are also considered sig

Updated: November 2, 2017

A normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, plus or minus seven days. Menstrual bleeding is considered irregular if it occurs more frequently than every 21 days or lasts longer than 8 days. Missed, early, or late periods are also considered signs of an irregular cycle.
If the time between each period starts to change or you lose more or less blood during a period than usual then it is consider as irregular periods.

Causes of Irregular Periods:

If ovulation doesn't occur during your menstrual cycle, it causes irregular periods. This happens due to changes in the hormonal  level of(estrogen and progesterone) your body. That is why young girls going through puberty and women approaching menopause commonly have irregular periods.
Other common causes of irregular periods include:

Extreme exercise or dieting:

Menstrual bleeding can be disrupt and sometimes stopped by exercising too much. It is common for endurance athletes to have missed periods. Extreme exercise, dieting, an eating disorder, or illness will make you underweight which can be a cause for irregular periods.

Stress:

Chronic stress or even short term anxiety about a specific problem can effect your hormone balance, causing a missed period and irregular cycle.

Birth control pills :

You can have missed periods or have less or more frequent periods if you are taking these pills. In some cases your periods may be lighter or even no periods at all.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

In this condition tiny cysts are formed on ovaries which interferes with regular ovulation.  PCOS is a major cause of infertility and can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Thyroid disorders:

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can be a cause of irregular periods.

Gynaecological problems:

An unsuspected pregnancy, early miscarriage, or problems with the womb or ovaries can be  a cause of irregular bleeding.

Other health issues:

Other health conditions that may cause an irregular cycle include sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, fibroids, eating disorders, and endometriosis.

Asherman syndrome:

This is a rare condition where severe scarring (adhesions) of the lining of the uterus can cause irregular periods.

Age:

The menstrual cycles may not always be on the same schedule every month when teens first start having their periods. It may take several years to settle into a pattern. In addition, missed periods and lighter or heavier periods are common as women near menopause.

Treating Irregular Periods:

Hormone changes are common during puberty and can cause changes to the normal menstrual cycle. Treatment during this time is not necessary. However other health condition that is affecting your menstrual cycle need treatment.

Treating PCOS and Thyroid issue:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism are two common causes of irregular periods in women which need to be adressed to regularize periods. The goal of treatment is to restore the balance of hormones in the body.  Birth control pills or other hormonal therapy are recommended to trigger a period if you have PCOS.
You may need to take thyroid hormones if you have hypothyroidism.

Changing your method of contraception:

If you are experiencing irregular bleeding that does not settle within a few months of fitting intrauterine device (IUD), you should switch to  to another method of contraception.
If you have started taking a new contraceptive pill that's causing irregular bleeding, you may be advised to change to another type of pill. Alternatively, an intrauterine system (IUS) such as Mirena may be recommended which is a soft, flexible plastic device that is inserted into your womb and releases a small amount of progestogen. This  is a very effective method of contraception and you can use it for up to five years and it can be removed at any time.  Your fertility will return to normal after its removal.
Mirena can also be used to treat heavy, irregular periods. Your periods will become lighter, shorter and, in some cases, less painful.

Lifestyle changes:

Some women have changes in their period because of excessive exercise. In such cases you may need to make your workouts less intense, or exercise less often. If stress is the problem, learning how to manage your stress and talking with a counselor may be helpful.



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