Why You Might Have Irregular Periods
Letâs start with the most important thing: irregular periods can be totally normal, so breathe a sigh of relief. Your period rarely shows up when you think it will â maybe for you it starts a week early, you bleed more heavily than usual, or you miss your period entirely â youâre definitely not alone. Having an irregular period cycle is surprisingly common. They can happen in about 30% of women in their reproductive years i.e., the time during which you have periods and are physically capable of getting pregnant.
Those reproductive years span your teenage years â or whenever you first get your period â to the wind-down of your menstrual cycle, which happens during pre-menopause in your mid-to-late forties. And itâs when things are starting up and winding down that youâre most likely to deal with an irregular period cycle, which makes sense, since thereâs a lot going on in your body that can upset your schedule. Really, your body is just figuring out its new schedule, which can mean your period comes early, late, or not at all.
Did We Answer Your Question About Your Menstrual Cycle And Your Health
For more information about your menstrual cycle and your health, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:
- Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
- Menstruation and menstrual problems Information from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Information from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
- Amenorrhea Information from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Menstrual Cramps Information from the Mayo Clinic
- Irregular Menstrual Periods Information from the Harvard Medical School
- Painful menstrual periods Information from the National Library of Medicine
When To Contact A Doctor
Pregnancy is not usually a medical emergency. Unless a person has heavy bleeding or a history of ectopic pregnancy, there may be no need to see a doctor right away.
However, receiving early prenatal care may increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy, so it may be a good idea to see a healthcare provider within the first few weeks.
They may make recommendations about healthful eating and other important ways to support the health of the pregnancy.
A person who wants an abortion should contact a doctor as soon as possible, because there are more options in early pregnancy.
Anyone with irregular bleeding should contact a doctor if they:
- are trying to get pregnant
- may be entering menopause
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How Can I Track My Cycle
Since the length of your cycle can vary slightly from month to month, its best to keep track for a few months. Once you have an average, subtract 18 days from the length of your shortest cycle. This is the first day youre likely to be fertile. Next, subtract 11 days from the length of your longest cycle.
What Are The Remedies For Irregular Periods
Having irregular periods as you reach menopause is considered normal, but if you want to get some relief, you could talk to your doctor to see if there is anything that you can do to support your body through these changes.
Some steps that you can consider taking on a daily basis include eating a healthy diet and staying active. Supporting your body with a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, which are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, may help you feel better overall. You may also find that you feel more energized and balanced when you reduce your intake of processed foods and sugar, and some experts also recommend cutting back on your caffeine intake.
Staying physically active by exercising a few days each week might also help you maintain a state of balance, and it may even help you feel better overall. A consistent workout routine could relieve stress and tension throughout your body, and it may also be beneficial when it comes to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
Plus, exercise might even boost your mood, so if you are going through perimenopause and experiencing mood swings along with your irregular periods, being more active could be the way to go.
Other things that you could try in order to keep your body in a state of balance include getting enough sleep, which is the time during which your body is able to repair and rejuvenate itself, and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking.
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How Is Abnormal Menstruation Diagnosed
If any aspect of your menstrual cycle has changed, you should keep an accurate record of when your period begins and ends, including the amount of flow and whether you pass large blood clots. Keep track of any other symptoms, such as bleeding between periods and menstrual cramps or pain.
Your doctor will ask you about your menstrual cycle and medical history. He or she will perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam and sometimes a Pap test. The doctor might also order certain tests, including the following:
- Blood tests to rule out anemia or other medical disorders.
- Vaginal cultures, to look for infections.
- A pelvic ultrasound exam to check for uterine fibroids, polyps or an ovarian cyst.
- An endometrial biopsy, in which a sample of tissue is removed from the lining of the uterus, to diagnose endometriosis, hormonal imbalance, or cancerous cells. Endometriosis or other conditions may also be diagnosed using a procedure called a laparoscopy, in which the doctor makes a tiny incision in the abdomen and then inserts a thin tube with a light attached to view the uterus and ovaries.
Irregular Periods And Infertility
Generally irregular periods should not be a cause for concern, they can be caused by something as small as a change to your regular routine. Although irregular periods may mean that you are ovulating irregularly, you can still become pregnant. Irregular periods do not mean that you are infertile unless you are in menopause and a year has passed without a period occurring.
However, irregular periods may also be sign of anovulation. This is a type of ovulatory dysfunction which causes ovulation to become absent. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary and it must happen in order for you to achieve pregnancy. Having an ovulatory dysfunction doesn’t mean that you are infertile, but achieving pregnancy may become more difficult. Seek advice from a relevant medical profession for more information.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. “The Stages of a Woman’s Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause”. November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. “Menopause: What is it?” Patient Leaflet. 2007
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Many Things Can Cause Irregular Periods
You know that stress youve been feeling about your new job or moving into a new house? It can wreak havoc on the regularity of your cycle.
During times of your life that are more stressful, your period could be more irregular, Zhang says. This could mean it comes later or even skips a month.
Other things that can cause irregular periods include weight gain or loss medical conditions like a thyroid disorder or ovulatory dysfunction high levels of testosterone, such as what happens to women who have polycystic ovary syndrome or putting a lot of stress on your body due to a strict exercise regime, which sometimes happens to female athletes.
And, for those who are wondering, infertility can cause irregular periods but not the other way around, Zhang says. If youre experiencing fertility issues and arent menstruating regularly, theres probably an underlying medical issue that you need to address, so make sure to talk with your doctor.
How Do Period Problems Affect Pregnancy
Not all period problems affect pregnancy. But some period problems can be a cause of infertility. Infertility means you are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying .
- Irregular or missed periods may mean that you are not ovulating . Not ovulating is the most common cause of infertility in women.
- Painful, long, irregular, or heavy periods may be a sign that you could have problems getting pregnant. This depends on the cause of your period problem. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome is a common cause of heavy bleeding that affects fertility. Some women with uterine fibroids also have problems getting pregnant.
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What Exactly Is An Irregular Period
The definition varies among doctors, but most agree that if you have fewer than nine periods a year or more than 35 days between periods, it may be considered irregular. Women with such irregular cycles may ovulate rarely or not at all.
Because menopause usually starts in the late 40s and early 50s, it can be difficult to determine whether extremely irregular periods are related to pregnancy or the start of menopause until a woman has gone several months without menstruating.
Regular menstrual cycles usually occur every 21-35 days. Menstrual flow lasts about4-7 days. An irregular cycle means that the length of your cycle is longer or shorterthan normal. You may also bleed more or less than usual, and for a longer or shorter timethan usual.
Is A 50 Day Cycle Normal
Though the average cycle is 28 days long, anything between 21 and 45 days is considered normal. Thats a 24-day difference. For the first year or two after menstruation begins, women tend to have longer cycles that dont start at the same time every month. Older women often have shorter, more consistent cycles.
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How Are Irregular Periods Managed
Because there are so many possible causes of irregular periods, any treatment will depend on the likely cause. Your doctor can arrange tests to find out what is affecting your periods.
Sometimes your doctor will recommend a lifestyle change, such as weight loss for women who are overweight, or exercising less if excessive exercise is the cause.
Your doctor might discuss a prescription for the oral contraceptive pill or the contraceptive vaginal ring to make your periods regular. These medicines contain two hormones, which take over your bodys natural hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, and control your menstrual cycles.
Even if you dont mind having an irregular cycle, it may be unhealthy to go for long stretches of time without a period. Speak with your doctor to check if this is a problem for you.
How Can An Irregular Cycle Hamper Your Ability To Get Pregnant
Irregular periods can make it harder to conceive in a couple ways. An irregular period, or the lack of a period altogether, is an indicator that no ovulation is happening. If ovulation doesnt occur during a cycle, then no egg is released, effectively making conception an impossibility. Those with irregular periods who do ovulate during their cycle can also have challenges conceiving, as it is more difficult to pinpoint the fertile window as it changes from cycle to cycle.
How can you get pregnant in spite of an irregular cycle?
One of the best ways to get pregnant despite having an irregular cycle is to track your ovulation metrics, including cervical fluid and basal body temperature, and by taking ovulation tests. When you track your cervical mucus and basal body temperature throughout your cycle, you can start to notice patterns and personalized indicators of ovulation to determine your unique fertile window, rather than adhering to one-size-fits-all fertility advice.
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What is an Irregular Period?
How Irregular Periods Change During Aging
Its very common to have irregular periods before the age of 20 and after the age of 40. During the first few years after your first period, its normal to have irregular periods because the bodys system that regulates periods is still maturing. By age 20, most women will have regular menstrual cycles.
Women usually go through the perimenopausal transition in their 40s, which causes irregular periods. As you approach menopause, periods get further apart until they stop for good. A woman is in menopause when she hasnt had a period for a year.
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Weight Gain Or Obesity
Rapid weight gain can throw your cycle. That’s because it affects the part of your brain that regulates hormones .
That can lead to hormonal fluctuations that may cause two periods in one month or to infrequent periods.
Obesity has a complex relationship with menstruation. High levels of fat can upset the balance of sex hormones and lead to excess estrogen.
Too much estrogen can make you have short menstrual cycles and more periods.
Hormonal imbalances can also cause heavier bleeding, more cramps, and longer-lasting pain during your period.
Menstrual changes related to weight are most severe when the extra fat is mostly around the belly.
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight for your body can help keep your menstrual cycle regular. If you need help losing weight, talk to your provider about your options.
A Curious Case Of Anovulation
Irregular periods may also be a sign of anovulation. During the menstrual cycle, a mature egg releases. When ovulation does not occur, the cycle is anovulatory. Though not a disease, research shows consistent anovulation indicates an underlying fertility or hormonal issue. In most cases, doctors prescribe fertility drugs or other treatment to improve ovulation and regulate the period.
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Can Irregular Periods Cause Infertility Can I Still Get Pregnant With An Irregular Period
Irregular periods themselves do not cause infertility, but they can be a symptom of an underlying issue that may cause or contribute to infertility. Again, this is why getting to the bottom of an irregular period is keyand where FAMs are significantly more helpful than birth control when it comes to addressing irregular periods.
Find out more:
Can Irregular Periods Ever Be Normal
For many adolescent girls just beginning to experience their menstrual cycle, the typical hormonal fluctuations that take place during puberty often make for some normal irregularity in cycle length. As the teenage body continues to develop, it may take a while for the bodyand, in turn, the menstrual cycleto self-regulate, as it adjusts to the new hormonal fluctuations taking place.
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What Causes Of Irregular Menstrual Cycles Make It Harder To Get Pregnant
There are many different conditions that can cause irregular cycles. Experiencing irregular cycles occasionally due to stress or illness can be normal. But if cycles remain irregular for long periods of time, a health care provider can help determine the cause of any menstrual problems.
This is especially important for those who want to learn how to get pregnant fast with irregular periods naturally. The following conditions can cause irregular cycles:
Underactive Or Overactive Thyroid
The thyroid controls practically every process in the body. Hypo- or hyperthyroidism can cause infertility, weight changes, depression, anxiety, and many other symptoms. Once someone has started treatment and their thyroid levels return to normal, they are typically more likely to get pregnant faster.
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What Can I Do To Determine If Im Ovulating
While one of the biggest indicators of ovulation is a regular menstrual cycle, there are electronic apps and ovulation predictor kits you can purchase. But be mindful, Dr. Sandsmark said, as some of these tools can vary in quality and data on their usefulness are limited.
Another issue is that unless you have regular cycles, both the apps and predictor kits can be more challenging to use. So those who may need them the most , might have the most difficulty using them.
The most accurate and helpful tool is bloodwork. Bloodwork ordered by your physician done on specific days of your menstrual cycle can help determine the best options for trying to conceive, Dr. Sandsmark said.
Irregular Periods May Occur After Miscarriage Pregnancy Loss
Also referred to as a spontaneous abortion, a miscarriage happens when an embryo or fetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy. After 20 weeks, pregnancy loss is considered a stillbirth. After these events, it can take a couple of months before you will start having regular periods again, says Lynn.
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What Is Abnormal Menstruation
Most women have menstrual periods that last four to seven days. A woman’s period usually occurs every 28 days, but normal menstrual cycles can range from 21 days to 35 days.
Examples of menstrual problems include:
- Periods that occur less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
- Missing three or more periods in a row
- Menstrual flow that is much heavier or lighter than usual
- Periods that last longer than seven days
- Periods that are accompanied by pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting
- Bleeding or spotting that happens between periods, after menopause or following sex
Examples of abnormal menstruation include the following:
- Amenorrhea is a condition in which a womans periods have stopped completely. The absence of a period for 90 days or more is considered abnormal unless a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause . Young women who haven’t started menstruating by age 15 or 16 or within three years after their breasts begin to develop are also considered to have amenorrhea.
- Oligomenorrhea refers to periods that occur infrequently.
- Dysmenorrhea refers to painful periods and severe menstrual cramps. Some discomfort during the cycle is normal for most women.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding may apply to a variety of menstrual irregularities, including: a heavier menstrual flow a period that lasts longer than seven days or bleeding or spotting between periods, after sex, or after menopause.