Irregular Periods, Why You May be Having Them
- Posted on: May 11 2023
As a woman, it’s not uncommon to experience periods that aren’t quite regular. But why? And what are some of the reasons behind it? In this blog, we’ll take a look at what could be causing your irregular periods and what you can do about it.
What is an “irregular” period?
Firstly, it’s important to define what constitutes an “irregular” period. The average menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days, with bleeding lasting between two and seven days. If your cycle falls outside of that range, or if your bleeding is unpredictable or inconsistent, then it could be considered irregular.
One of the most common causes of irregular periods is hormonal imbalances. The menstrual cycle is controlled by a delicate balance of hormones, and any disruptions to that balance can throw things off. For example, high levels of the hormone prolactin (which is involved in breastfeeding) can result in missed periods or longer cycles. Similarly, conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can cause irregular periods due to imbalances in androgens (male hormones) and estrogen.
Stress and Weight Fluctuations
Hormonal imbalances aren’t the only potential cause of irregular periods. Stress can also play a role. When we’re under a lot of stress, our bodies release higher levels of the hormone cortisol. This can interfere with the menstrual cycle by suppressing ovulation or causing irregular bleeding. Similarly, changes in weight (either gaining or losing) can disrupt the hormonal balance and lead to irregular periods.
Certain medications can also cause irregular periods. For example, some types of birth control (particularly those with a low dose of hormones) can result in lighter, less frequent periods. Conversely, certain medications used to treat conditions like epilepsy or depression can cause heavier or more frequent bleeding.
In some cases, irregular periods may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. For example, thyroid problems (such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) can cause changes to the menstrual cycle. Similarly, conditions like endometriosis (where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it) or uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the uterus) can cause heavy, painful periods or irregular bleeding.
What to do?
So, what can you do if you’re experiencing irregular periods? The first step is to try and identify the cause with the help of your medical provider. Keeping a period diary (where you track the start and end of bleeding, as well as any symptoms you experience) can be helpful in identifying patterns and potential triggers. Your doctor might order blood tests to determine if you’re experiencing a hormonal imbalance or an ultrasound to check for any physical abnormalities.
In some cases, lifestyle changes may be all that’s needed to regulate the menstrual cycle. This could include making changes to your diet or exercise routine, reducing stress, or getting more sleep. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatments (such as hormonal birth control) to help regulate your periods.
Ultimately, if you’re experiencing irregular periods, it’s important not to ignore it. While it’s unlikely to be a serious problem, irregular bleeding can be a symptom of underlying medical issues that require treatment. By identifying the cause and taking steps to regulate your cycle, you can not only avoid the inconvenience of unpredictable bleeding but also ensure your overall health and well-being.
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