Many women of reproductive age feel stressed about irregular menstrual cycles, sometime or the other. A woman’s body keeps on changing from time to time and she might suspect that her menstrual cycle is abnormal for one reason or another. Women often get tensed about the changes in their menstrual cycles as they are not aware of what are normal and what are not.
What is An Irregular Period?
When a woman says she has an irregular period, she probably refers to the duration of her period or the number of days between the periods. But it’s normal to have a gap of 21 to 35 days between periods.
The period is considered irregular if:
- It occurs more often than 21 days.
- It takes 35 days or more between consecutive periods.
- The length of the cycles varies greatly even if they come in between 21 to 35-day range.
When Can Occasional Irregular Periods be Normal?
When a woman misses her period, it’s an indication that something isn’t right. But an occasional irregular period can be normal if a woman,
- experiences illness
- is under a lot of stress
- is travelling and if her sleep patterns are disturbed
- is breastfeeding, which causes absence of periods during lactation
- is pregnant
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What are The Common Causes of Irregular Periods?
Apart from the above-mentioned reasons which cause irregular periods occasionally, following are some other causes of irregular periods.
- Stress: When a woman experiences high levels of stress, her menstrual cycles can get affected. When a woman is under a lot of stress for a longer duration, her body starts to conserve energy by preventing ovulation. This makes the adrenal glands to work overtime, which can affect the production of thyroid hormones, estrogen, and other reproductive hormones. When the production of estrogen and other hormones including Luteinizing hormone (LH), Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is not normal, the uterine lining is not built properly and hence the period will be missed.
- Weight: A woman’s weight affects her menstrual cycle. Body fat is important for the production of estrogen, which is responsible for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Hence, women whose BMI falls below 18 or 19 or to keep it simple, who are very thin with too little body fat can experience hormonal disorders that result in irregular periods. Also, if women are overweight or obese, it affects their period regularity. When women are overweight, they may miss their periods and if they get, it would be heavier than usual. So, to maintain regular menstrual cycles, make sure you maintain a healthy weight.
- Unhygienic Diet: A diet low in nutrients but high in stimulants can strain the adrenal glands and thyroid. This leads to higher production of cortisol, which hinders the proper functioning of other essential hormones especially sex hormones. As a result, it gets more difficult for hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle. Therefore, women who are underweight should take a high-calorie diet and low-fat diet if overweight.
- Over – Exercising: Though moderate exercise is essential for overall health, too much exercise may harm the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands. When women exercise with high intensity and sweat more for a long time, stress levels increase and the energy required to regulate sex hormones gets depleted. Hence, the menstrual cycles are disturbed resulting in irregular periods.
- Thyroid disorders: Thyroid disorders may be one of the leading causes of irregular periods. The functioning of thyroid glands has a great impact on sex hormones. Thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can cause changes in the levels of estrogen and cortisol that leads to irregular periods.
- Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances greatly affect woman’s ovulation. Case in point, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance, causes irregular periods. PCOS can be diagnosed by hormonal tests, symptoms and examining the ovaries for cyst growths.
- Birth Control Pills: When women use birth control pills, they can experience changes in their menstrual cycle including the duration, frequency, and the flow. These pills change the hormone levels in the body which can prompt menstruation to happen at different times. When a woman stops using the birth control pills, she may even experience missed periods for more than three months.