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Irregular Periods – Causes, Effects & Remedies

Irregular Periods

Most women will experience an abnormal menstrual cycle at some stage in their life. This can include irregular periods, or even missed periods. This might not be concerning if it happens once or twice, but if you regularly have an abnormal menstrual cycle, it may be a cause for concern.

Unfortunately, determining the cause of an abnormal menstrual cycle can be difficult and the cause may vary in every woman. Changes in your brain, pituitary glands, ovaries, adrenal glands or thyroid can all trigger changes to your menstrual cycle. Even your emotions, diet, and exercise routine can cause your period to become irregular.1

Why are irregular periods concerning?

Having a regular period is a sign that your body’s hormones and reproductive system are working well, while having an irregular period can mean that you have an underlying medical problem or that your hormones are imbalanced. It can also mean that certain lifestyle factors are impacting your body in a way that changes your period.

What is a “normal” period?

The length of the menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. The length of a “normal” menstrual cycle can be anywhere between 21 to 35 days, with the majority of women having their period every 25 to 28 days.2 The length of a menstrual cycle fluctuates between different women, with genetics, age and overall health all playing a part.

It’s important to understand that what is normal for you may not be normal for other women.  You might experience your period every 24 days while all your friends have 28 or 30-day cycles. Your “normal" menstrual cycle is 24 days and what you consider an irregular period should be based off that number.

If you are worried about the frequency and length of your periods, start recording the following information each month:

  • Start date: When did your period begin? Was it around the time you expected?
  • End date: Was your period shorter or longer than normal?
  • Abnormal bleeding: Are you experiencing any bleeding between periods?
  • Pain: Are your periods more painful than normal?
  • Flow: Are your periods producing more blood and mucus than normal? Do you have to change sanitary protection more often to deal with it?
  • Emotional changes: How are you feeling (emotionally) during your cycle? If you experience unexpected outbursts of emotion, it may be related to overproduction or underproduction of certain hormones.

Considering all the points above may help you identify if you have irregular periods and will be useful insights to tell your doctor if a problem occurs.

The most common causes of irregular periods

Here are the most common lifestyle factors and health conditions that can cause irregular periods:

1) Age

The menstrual cycle in adolescents may not always be on the same schedule every month, it may take some time to settle into a pattern.3 In addition, women near menopause may start experiencing missed or lighter periods, as result of the hormonal ups and downs during the perimenopause.4

2) High stress levels

The impact of stress upon the female body is extraordinary. It can cause the adrenal glands to work overtime, increasing levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol can disrupt the production of other hormones, disrupting your period.5

3) Weight changes

Body fat is required to produce the hormone oestrogen. Common causes for sudden weight loss might include over-exercising or dealing with an illness. Adding more calories to your diet will restore your body’s ability to produce sufficient levels of oestrogen and maintain a regular menstruation cycle.

However, it has been shown that obesity can cause alterations in women’s period due to an over production of estrogens in the fat cells of the body, this can interrupt the function of other menstrual hormones, causing irregularities in your period.6

To sum up everything we have gone through above, there are many different reasons which can cause irregular or even missed periods ranging from lifestyle changes to a serious illness. If you feel like there has been a shift in the regularity of your period, book an appointment with your GP immediately.

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