How Your Menstrual Works: The Natural Way Your Body Prevents Irregular Periods
Anovulation is the failure of the ovary to release eggs over a period of time, usually exceeding three months. One of the major signs of anovulation is irregular or absent menstrual periods.
For non-pregnant women of a reproductive age , anovulation is abnormal and thought to be the main cause of infertility in about 30 percent of fertility patients. Oligomenorrhea is another term for irregular but not totally absent periods, which is defined as more than 36 days between menstrual cycles or fewer than eight cycles per year.
This predictable pattern of a womans ovulation and menstruation is regulated by a cycle of change in certain sex hormones, especially estrogen. There are many kinds of estrogens present in a female body. The three main ones are estradiol, estriol and estrone.
Estradiol is produced in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. Its considered the most potent of the three main estrogens and is highly related to menstruation, while the other types of estrogen are more related to pregnancy. After about the age of 50, the ovaries produce less estrogen, and it becomes the job of the adrenal glands to supply estrogen or provide the biochemical precursors used to synthesize estrogen. This is why women naturally go through menopause and stop having their periods after their normal reproductive years.
How To Get Pregnant With Irregular Periods
If youre ovulating, you have the ability to get pregnant, but if you have irregular periods, your chances for pregnancy may be more limited than a woman with regular periods.
The most important thing is to have regular unprotected sex. Aim to have intercourse at least every two to three days.
If you have an underlying medical condition thats affecting fertility, treating that condition may increase your chances for pregnancy.
Your doctor may prescribe clomiphene citrate to induce ovulation. Clomid has when used in women with PCOS.
Side effects from Clomid may include:
- hot flashes
- abdominal bloating
- release of multiple eggs in one cycle, which can lead to pregnancy with multiples
Weight loss or weight gain may also help. According to the PCOS Awareness Association, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help regulate ovulation in women who are overweight.
Get your doctors recommendations for gaining or losing weight. They may be able to provide you with meal plans and exercise guidelines, or point you to resources.
If your irregular periods are caused by an underactive or overactive thyroid, your doctor will prescribe drugs that increase the thyroid hormone or block it.
One study published in the found that of women with hypothyroidism and infertility who were treated with the drug levothyroxine got pregnant versus 26 percent treated with a placebo.
What Causes Irregular Periods
There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing menstrual irregularity. Excessively heavy or prolonged periods is called menorrhagia.
Common symptoms include a period that lasts longer than 7 days or bleeding thats so heavy you have to change your period product every hour.
Causes of menorrhagia may include:
- Medications. Some anti-inflammatory or hormone medications can affect menstrual bleeding. Heavy bleeding is also a side effect of IUD birth control.
- Hormone changes. An excess of the hormones progestin or estrogen, which regulate the lining of the uterus, may cause heavy bleeding. Hormone imbalances occur most frequently in people who have recently started menstruating or those approaching menopause.
- Medical conditions. Pelvic inflammatory disease , endometriosis, inherited blood disorders, and benign growths and cancers have all been found to possibly cause menstrual irregularity.
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Why Do Some Menstrual Periods Become Irregular
There are many variables that can affect the length and timing of your menstrual cycle. Some are correctable, but others can signal significant medical issues.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome This metabolic and hormonal disorder occurs when the ovaries or adrenal glands overproduce the male hormones and the body has insulin resistance. Studies have shown that 87 percent of women with irregular menstrual cycles have PCOS.
- Thyroid or pituitary disorders Hypothyroidism , hyperthyroidism , and hyperprolactinemia can all affect menstrual regularity, says Dr. Lynn. One study found that 44 percent of study participants with irregular periods also had thyroid problems.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease An inflammation of the female reproductive system, PID is usually caused by sexually transmitted infections.
When To See The Doctor
You should see your doctor if you have unusual bleeding. This may include:
- Bleeding after sex, more than once
- Spotting or bleeding anytime in the menstrual cycle other than during your period
- Bleeding after menopause
Your doctor may start by checking for problems that are most common in your age group. Some of these are not serious and are easy to treat. Your doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control, such as a hormonal IUD, the pill, shot, or vaginal ring, to help control your menstrual cycle. Hormonal birth control is sometimes prescribed by doctors for womens health concerns other than preventing pregnancy. Other types of bleeding, such as any vaginal bleeding after menopause, can be more serious.
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Cause #: Extreme Weight Loss And Low Bmi
When your body mass index falls below 18 or 19, you may miss your period because of the lack of body fat, which is essential in the creation of estrogen. A diet thats low in calories and fat can result in nutritional deficiencies that contribute to irregular periods and bone loss. This is not to say that every woman that experiences missed or irregular periods will be underweight or nutritionally deficient. Many are at a normal weight and some are even what is considered overweight on the BMI scale.
Cause #: Food Allergies And Sensitivities
An undiagnosed gluten sensitivity or celiac disease meaning you are not taking medication or monitoring it can both impact your hormone levels. These conditions can result in nutrient deficiencies, negatively affect gut health, and add chronic stress to your adrenal glands, which have the ability to affect sex hormone production.
While some of these causes are relatively unavoidable, its crucial that you are paying honest attention to how each element of your lifestyle affects your health that way you can make choices to eliminate or tweak aspects that may be causing irregular periods. If youve been dealing with missed periods for a while, speak to your doctor about running some important tests that can find hormone imbalances and other issues. Many experts will recommend a three-tier treatment strategy that looks something like this: 1) Make appropriate diet, lifestyle, and stress-reduction changes 2) Use natural remedies when you need extra support and 3) Only if you find that those arent working, discuss hormonal pills or procedures with your healthcare provider.
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When To Seek Help
- You havent had a period for three or more months.
- You have menstrual bleeding that lasts for more than a week.
- Youre soaking through a pad or tampon every hour or two, for several hours, during your period.
- Your periods are very painful.
- Youve been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for one year and are younger than 35 or for six months or longer and are 35 or older.
What Health Problems Can Irregular Periods Indicate
Two of the health problems mentioned above, thyroid disease and polycystic ovary syndrome , can cause irregular periods.
Another health problem that can cause irregular periods is uterine fibroids, which are benign lumps that grow on the uterus. Some of the symptoms of this illness are heavy periods, cramping, painful sex, and an urge to urinate.
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Signs Of Irregular Periods
Keeping careful track of your period is an important part of recognizing the signs and symptoms of irregular periods. Many women lose track of the number of days their period usually lasts or when their last menstruation was making it easy to miss clear signs of an irregular period.
When tracking your menstrual cycle, make sure to make a note of the following details:
When your period begins and ends
Keeping track of when your period begins and ends each month can give you valuable insight into your menstrual cycle. You will be able to track the length of your period, whether or not the length of your menstrual cycle is consistent, and whether you miss any periods.
The amount of flow
It is important to make a note of how much bleeding you experience during your period both throughout the day and over the week. A typical period follows the same flow pattern most months. Major fluctuations in flow from day to day or throughout the day can signal an underlying medical condition.
It is also important to notice if your period is excessively heavy or light. Dramatically heavy or light periods often occur with other symptoms.
Presence of clots
Pay attention to any clots you pass during your period. Make a note of their size and appearance so that you can discuss them with your doctor.
Cramps or pain
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Changes in your weight can affect your period. If youre in a larger body, losing weight could help regulate your periods .
Alternatively, extreme weight loss or being underweight can cause irregular menstruation. Thats why its important to maintain a moderate weight.
People who menstruate and have obesity are also more likely to have irregular periods and experience heavier bleeding and pain. This is due to the impact that fat cells have on hormones and insulin.
If you want to lose weight, talk with your doctor. They can help you identify a target weight and come up with a strategy of how to get there.
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Can You Get Pregnant With An Irregular Period
Absolutely yes, says Lynn. Sometimes you can ovulate with irregular cycles, sometimes you dont ovulate with irregular cycles. If you’re not ovulating, you’re not going to get pregnant, but if you are ovulating with irregular cycles, you can. You can have bleeding without ovulating but it’s a real period only if you ovulate. You should use contraception if not desiring pregnancy and to protect against STDs.
Talking To A Healthcare Provider
When talking to your healthcare provider, show them your cycle history. Also, tell them if youâve recently noticed unexpected changes in your body, such as unexplained abdominal pain, difficulty controlling your weight, or unusual hair growth on your face or body. This can help them identify what might be causing your cycle irregularity.
A healthcare provider will probably ask questions about your symptoms and your medical and menstrual history and perform a simple physical exam. In some cases, they may also:
Ask questions about your full health history, including medical and surgical history, social history, and family history
Perform blood tests to check the levels of hormones and sugars in the blood. Hormones they will typically check for include testosterone, thyroid hormone, prolactin, and tests of sugar metabolism.
Perform a pelvic ultrasound of your ovaries and uterus
Managing a clinically irregular cycle will help you to meet your short-term goals, like having a more regular period or becoming pregnant, and long-term goals for staying healthy and well.
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Treatment Options: Can You Fix Irregular Periods
If stress is a possible culprit in your irregular cycle, try stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, visualization, cognitive behavioral therapy, and biofeedback. Avoid over-exercising, and try not to diet excessively. If you need help figuring out whats best for you, contact a registered dietitian. For all medical issues, consult your healthcare professional.
When Is A Menstrual Period Considered Irregular
A normal cycle from the first day of one period to the first day of the next can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days, says Becky Lynn, MD, the director of the Evora Center for Menopause and Sexual Health and an adjunct associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University in Missouri: We all think that 28 days is the normal cycle, but there’s actually some room for variability. To determine whether your menstruation schedule is irregular, count from the last day of your previous period and stop counting on the first day of your next. Repeat this for three months. If the number of days between stopping and starting your period is outside of the 21 to 35 days range, you have an irregular cycle. Menstruation can also be considered irregular if your cycle length varies by more than 20 days from month to month.
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Should You Be Concerned If Your Period Is Irregular
A couple of irregular periods per year are usually nothing to worry about. Any more than that, and you should see a doctor to be sure an ovulation problem or health condition isnt the cause. If you are someone who’s not on contraceptives and not of age for perimenopause or menopause and your periods are irregular, you should alert your physician. For example, if you do have PCOS, an irregular cycle can increase your risk of uterine cancer, says Lynn.
Other Possible Factors Associated With Irregular Periods
Irregular periods can occur in conjunction with uterine fibroids, polyps, infections, malignancies, systemic disorders , medication side effects, or recently-inserted IUDs. If your periods have been irregular for a while and none of these explanations seems to fit, consult your healthcare practitioner right away to schedule a physical exam and lab tests to rule out more serious issues.
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How Is The Treatment Done
Irregular menstruation or irregular periods occur mainly due to imbalance of hormones in the body. Hormone fluctuation in the body occurs due to stress, hectic lifestyle disrupting estrogen production, unhealthy diet, sudden loss or gain in weight, malnourishment, contraception, medication, hormonal birth controls using pills or injection, puberty or menarche or menopause and excessive workout. Irregular menstruation may require women to consider treatments. Before reaching out to medication or surgery women usually try to resolve the issue with lifestyle changes and with home remedies and natural or herbal supplements. Apart from irregular menses women also suffer from severe pain due to spasms during the periods. When the natural remedies and lifestyle changes do not seem to work, women resort to medication and surgery. Some women may also have irregular periods due to polycystic ovary syndrome. So treating PCOS can also help in treating irregular menses. Treating thyroid disorders also helps in treating irregular menstruation. The medical treatment type actually depends upon the underlying cause of the periods becoming irregular. Women can in fact resort to combination of approaches to treat the irregularity of your periods.
Ovulation Predictor Kits And Irregular Periods
Ovulation generally occurs midway in your cycle. If you have a typical 28-day cycle, youd ovulate about day 14. But when your periods are irregular, predicting ovulation and timing intercourse to up pregnancy chances can be difficult.
Ovulation predictor kits are fairly accurate at detecting a surge in luteinizing hormone, which triggers ovulation. And while theyre easy to use, requiring just a quick pass through your urine stream, they can get expensive, especially when youre testing for days or weeks on end.
If you have irregular periods, you may want to wait to use an ovulation predictor kit until you observe other signs of ovulation. Some things to look for:
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Harmful Effects Of Irregular Periods On Your Health
The menstrual cycle is a natural part of a womans life. Most of the times, it has been seen that women have periods that have a standard or perfect timing. However, some women may have extremely unpredictable or irregular periods. There are numerous reasons that can cause these irregular periods. In such cases, there are some that are more serious than the others.At the point when a woman stops getting her period, it is called amenorrhea. It is a strong sign that something is not right. Primary amenorrhea is the point at which a teenager never got her period in the first place during adolescence. Secondary amenorrhea on the other hand, is when a woman has had her period in the past, yet stops getting her monthly period for at least three months.Irregular periods, missed periods, or exceptionally painful and serious PMS symptoms are an indication that the levels of one or more hormones are either missing or are too high. Whether it is a basic health condition, constant stress levels, a bad eating routine, an excess of exercise or less body weight, frequently missed periods is not something that should be ignored, especially when you are sure that you are not pregnant.