Irregular menstruation is characterized by irregular menses, heavy blood flow, long-lasting and painful menses. For most women, normal cycles last for 21 to 35 days, but in abnormal cases some women may experience longer or shorter cycles. They may also have heavier or lighter blood flow than average. In some other cases, menses may be accompanied by pain and discomfort (known as dysmenorrhea).
Irregular cycles can be ovulatory (where ovulation occurs) or anovulatory (where ovulation fails to occur).
Causes of irregular Period
Role of hormones
Hormonal imbalance causes changes during menopause, puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding which can all lead to irregular cycles.
- During puberty, the body undergoes lot of changes, so it takes time for the body to maintain adequate levels of hormones progesterone and oestrogen. Due to irregular hormones during this phase, the periods are usually irregular with the problem persisting for few years till the cycles become regular.
- Before the menopause, women experience irregular periods during which the cycles slowly taper down before completely coming to a stop. Blood shedding may also vary during this perimenopausal period which may be accompanied by other symptoms like mood swings, abdominal cramps and many more. No menstrual cycle for at least 12 months is considered as menopause
- During pregnancy, menstruation ceases, and a pregnant woman does not menstruate. This phase without cycles will last even after delivery as long as the women is breastfeeding. This occurs due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and breast feeding.
Contraceptives are used to avoid pregnancy by preventing conception. These contraceptives can affect hormone levels and can lead to irregular menses.
- IUD: Intrauterine devices are known to cause more bleeding
- Oral pills: These can cause spotting between periods
When a woman uses contraceptive pills for the first time, she may experience bleeding shorter and lighter than the regular periods. If the bleeding lasts longer or is accompanied by pain, then it is advised to consult a doctor.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition in which multiple cysts develop in the ovaries. A woman who has polycystic ovarian syndrome does not ovulate every month due to immature follicles and insufficient hormones. This results in irregular menses.
Thyroid produces hormones which are responsible for body metabolism, so any thyroid disorder will affect normal metabolism and will lead to irregular periods
Other probable causes for irregular periods are extreme weight loss or gain, emotional stress, and eating disorders.
Stress and Emotions
Excessive stress, eating disorders, sudden weight loss can lead to altered secretion of cortisol. Cortisol in turn affects others hormones and leads to irregular menses.
Psychosocial sessions may help in such cases to manage stress and improve menstrual cycles.
Some woman experience changes in their menstrual cycles because of excessive exercise and physical stress. In that case one may need to work out under a proper trainer and do appropriate exercises. If stress is causing irregular periods, then speaking to a counsellor might help.
Birth control pills:
In case of irregular periods due to contraception for more than three months, one should consult a gynaecologist and look for alternative birth control pills. Intra uterine devices (IUD) can also lead to irregular periods. Consulting a gynaecologist for the same is advised.
Generally, treatment is not required for irregular periods if they occur around puberty or during menopausal phase. In any other case, following treatment may be advised:
Hormonal therapy: Irregular menstruation is usually due to the imbalance of hormones in the body. Doctors typically prescribe birth control pills which contain hormone oestrogen and progesterone which help to regularise irregular periods.
Irregular menstruation may hinder the process of conceiving. However, it is important to have intercourse every two to three days in the cycle irrespective of whether the female is ovulating or not. If this still does not work, consult a specialist for fertility treatment and family planning.