Irregular Periods

Irregular Periods: Overview

Alternative Names: Oligomenorrhea

Irregular periods involve bleeding that occurs outside the usual variations of a woman's menstrual cycle.  In other words, periods that are significantly early or late, bleeding between periods, missed periods, continuous periods, or periods that occur twice in one cycle.

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The average menstrual cycle usually lasts 28-29 days, but often varies between 24 and 35 days.  Irregular periods are one of the most common complaints related to the menstrual cycle, and are usually nothing to worry about.  Occasionally, however, they are a sign of a more significant problem.

Incidence; Causes and Development

Irregular periods are common – and normal – during puberty and just before menopause.  About 30% of women in their reproductive years experience irregular periods.

  • Low body weight (the most common cause)
  • Menarche: A girl's first cycles may be irregular.  It can take up to 3 years to get regular periods.
  • Menopause: Hormone balance changes significantly during this time and often causes irregular periods.
  • Hormonal Birth Control: It can take a while for the body to adjust to the new hormone levels.
  • Changing your method of contraception
  • Estrogen-progesterone hormone imbalance
  • Pregnancy: When you become pregnant, your body will begin producing different levels of hormones.  This will cause numerous pregnancy symptoms, including temporary cessation of menstrual periods.
  • Birth and breastfeeding
  • Significant weight gain
  • Significant weight loss
  • Severe emotional stress: If you are fatigued, worried, or anxious this can cause your hormones to become unbalanced.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Excessive exercise / overtraining
  • Alcohol
  • Uterine abnormalities such as cervical polyps, uterine fibroids and endometriosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Affecting about 10% of women, PCOS causes cysts to form on the ovaries, interfering with regular ovulation.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Treatment and Prevention

Any underlying medical condition(s) should of course be treated.  Reduce stress levels; get help if you have an eating disorder; don't over-exercise.

Medical treatments include using hormonal contraceptives to help regulate menstrual cycles, or hormone supplements if you have a specific imbalance.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Irregular Periods:

Symptoms - Reproductive - Female Cycle

Conditions that suggest Irregular Periods:

Symptoms - Female

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Irregular Periods suggests the following may be present:

Organ Health

Diabetes Type II

Women with long or very irregular menstrual cycles may be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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