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What are Irregular Periods & their Causes?

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What are Irregular Periods & their Causes?

Obstetrics and Gynaecology | Posted on 09/29/2022 by RBH



Are you experiencing irregular periods? Worried if it is a health concern?

Irregular periods are not always a warning sign of any underlying health problem. However, it is always the best idea to see your gynae to rule out any chance. We understand how difficult it is for you, but do not worry anymore. In this write-up, we will break down everything about irregular periods and the reasons for their occurrence.

So, first, let’s begin with the basics.

What is an irregular period?

Firstly, understand that an irregular period is not a health condition and can happen to any woman. An irregular period is when a woman observes that the menstrual cycle length suddenly is falling outside its regular length. It can also involve uterine bleeding that is abnormal like:

  • Experiencing bleeding after sexual activity.
  • Bleeding in between the periods or spotting.
  • Heaving bleeding during periods.
  • Menstrual bleeding is lasting longer than usual.
  • Experiencing bleeding even after reaching menopause.

The average length of a period is around 28-30 days, however, it can be shorter and longer than the average range. It entirely depends on the physiology of each woman. Every female physiology is unique and for some periods functions like clockwork.

What causes irregular periods?

Irregular periods also known as oligomenorrhea can happen in any female life for different reasons. The primary causes of irregular periods are follicle-stimulating hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. These are the hormone levels that help in regulating the menstrual cycle among women.

Women usually experience irregular periods if there is any disruption in the hormone levels or the level increases.

You must comprehend one thing: irregular periods occasionally are fine and don’t raise any alarm or concern. If irregular periods are occurring every other month, then it can be an alarming situation.

Here are the factors you must know that contribute to causing irregular periods:

  • Stress and worry
  • Natural hormonal change
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Endurance activity or exercise
  • Sudden weight loss or gain

Let’s have a look at some of the potential causes of irregular periods.

Natural hormonal shifts

During puberty, females experience countless hormonal shifts and this is why usually irregular period symptoms occur. It takes years for the hormones to have the appropriate regulation and fall into an appropriate pattern.

Irregular periods also can occur after childbirth during breastfeeding till the time hormone comes back to its normal place. Women also experience irregular periods during perimenopause.

During this period, women can observe countless shifts in the hormones which naturally leads to irregular periods until they stop permanently.

Starting birth control

When a woman is put on hormonal birth control then it also causes irregular periods as it stops ovulation. It means that a female will not have her real period till she is using it. Some women may experience no periods at all whereas some might experience withdrawal bleeding that looks like a period.

When a woman begins to take her first pill, hormonal intrauterine device, patch, or implant, then she may observe irregular periods for a few months. However, later it becomes normal and stops completely.

Stopping birth control

When a female stops the use of birth control, it also causes irregular periods. The body requires time to maintain balance and shift back to the hormonal cycle again. Usually, a female can experience around 2-4 weeks of bleeding withdrawal once she stops the pills. Further, the next time will be period blood and may take around three months to settle again in a regular pattern.

Underlying health conditions

Underlying health conditions are causing irregular periods among women. Let’s see what are those:

PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome

It is among one the reasons for irregular periods. Polycystic ovarian syndrome- PCOS is a reproductive health condition among women that includes small sacs that are filled with fluid known as cysts. It increases testosterone levels and delays ovulation or even stops the period completely.

The signs of PCOS problems are acne, huge hair growth, resistance to insulin affecting weight, depression, and trouble getting or staying pregnant.

Eating disorders

Women with eating disorders also experience irregular periods. Eating disorders like binge eating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa are the primary factors of irregular periods. The signs of eating disorders are massive limitation of food, intake of calories, reducing the whole food groups like carbohydrates, fasting followed by binge-eating, visiting the washroom after meals, and eating a high quantity of food even when not hungry.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is also one of the health reproductive conditions among females that involve the growth of cells outside the uterus instead of growing inside. It makes the uterine lining thick and sheds with every menstrual cycle.

If the cells grow in other areas, it thickens and shedding causes throbbing pain. The signs of endometriosis are heavy periods, large blood clots, bleeding during periods, and problems when trying to conceive.

Thyroid

The thyroid forms hormones affecting the metabolism, heart rate, and other functionalities in the body. It also benefits in controlling ovulation timings and periods. Women with hyperthyroidism produce high levels of hormones and females with hypothyroidism cannot produce enough.

It is a condition that causes heavy bleeding or not at all. The signs of thyroid are a racing heart, trouble sleeping, anxiety, feeling hot, irregular periods, weight loss, and weight gain.

Other conditions

There are other conditions as well that cause irregular periods that are type 1 diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, primary ovarian insufficiency, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and hormone-secreting tumors.

Irregular periods treatment

Irregular periods don’t require treatment and are very common among every female. Irregularity because of puberty, contraception, and perimenopause doesn’t require any kind of treatment.

Although, you may need the treatment or at least speak to a doctor if:

  • Irregular periods are constant without reason.
  • They could be related to a clinical condition.
  • Irregular periods happen with signs like pelvic pain.
  • You are planning pregnancy.

When a doctor diagnoses the real reason for irregular periods, then here are some of the treatment options he/she will recommend:

  • Hormonal therapy is the finest treatment option for irregular periods so a doctor might advise you to involve pills containing estrogen and progesterone. They are useful in increasing hormonal levels.
  • Your doctor will ask you to maintain the weight as it can influence your periods massively.
  • Nutritional therapy is recommended when an individual is trying to gain or lose weight. When nutrition is not in sync, the menstruation cycle is affected which implies irregular periods.
  • Mental health treatment is also involved as irregular periods are linked to depression, stress, anxiety, and an eating disorder. For a lot of women, it generally includes conversing with a psychologist. The doctor will help you out with therapies and eating disorders.
  • Additional medications are also involved in the irregular period treatment. Some women might benefit from the medications. So, the doctor can recommend medicines like metformin to fight PCOS. It is useful in making sure of ovulation and regular periods.

Conclusion:

Females keep experiencing occasional variations in their monthly cycles and that is entirely normal. Although, when an individual is observing constantly short or longer cycles, then it may be an indication of some health problem.

A woman needs to understand her periods as this is not required only when she is trying to conceive but also to understand her overall health. So, if you are someone noticing irregular periods every other month, you must talk to a gynecologist.

It can be due to hormonal imbalance, health problems, or issues with ovulation.

The good news is a lot of women's reproductive health issues can be treated with medications and some simple procedures with recommended lifestyle changes. In general, every woman should ensure visiting a gynaecologist at least once a year or every six months to ensure good reproductive health.

Visit our expert gynaecologist at Rukmani Birla Hospital (RBH) or book an appointment with our expert gynaecologist for any reproductive health condition.

FAQs:

 

Are irregular periods a matter of concern?

No, usually irregular periods don’t indicate any serious health issues. However, if you are experiencing the problem every month, then you might visit a gynecologist. He/she will diagnose the problem and if there is anything, then you will be recommended the right treatment and medications.

Can you get pregnant with irregular periods?

Yes, certainly women with irregular periods can get pregnant because ovulation is still in the process. Although, it might be difficult to predict the ovulation time every month.

Can stress cause irregular periods?

Certainly, it can be because the cortisol hormone is produced by your body when an individual is stressed out. It can cause havoc on the interaction of the ovary, pituitary, and hypothalamus resulting in irregular periods.

Can you ovulate on time when your periods are irregular?

Every woman must understand that no matter what the length of her period is, she will ovulate after 14 days. For instance, if a female has a length of 28 days then she will ovulate on the 14th day and the same goes for a female having a length of 32 days.