Just like every woman is different, so is their menstruation cycle. For some, it is consistent and on regular interim but for others it is unpredictable. Usually, a woman gets her period every 24-35 days which is safe to consider a regular menstrual cycle. An irregular cycle is when the interval between periods varies each month and the number of days it lasts is also different. There are various causes of irregular periods. In case of abnormal periods, consult a doctor immediately to avoid further complications.
Causes of Irregular Periods –
There are numerous causes for irregular periods, some trivial while others requiring medical help. Let us have a look at them.
If you have had unprotected sex with your partner and you miss your period, you should take a pregnancy test at home or visit a doctor to confirm whether you’re pregnant or not. The early signs include pain in breasts, spotting, and cramping which is known as implantation bleeding that occurs from 6-12 days after the egg is fertilized.
Some mothers experience no periods or irregular periods while breastfeeding their newborn because of prolactin – the hormone that produces milk. It also suppresses the release of hormones that cause the eggs to mature and become fertile. Usually, periods become regular after breastfeeding is stopped.
3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or as abbreviated PCOS is a hormonal disorder which affects millions of women across the world. Due to this syndrome, periods become irregular as there is the formation of cysts in the ovaries. It can also cause excessive hair on the face and body, obesity, and infertility.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in our neck that makes thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces thyroid hormones in excess. Too little thyroid hormones can slow down our body’s function when the thyroid gland is underactive. This is known as hypothyroidism. Both of these conditions cause irregular periods.
5. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating can have a consequential impact on the menstrual cycle. They are characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating habits due to mental health conditions. This disrupts the hormonal cycle that regulates the menstruation resulting in irregular periods.
6. Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids are small, muscular tumours that develop in the wall of the uterus. They can vary in size and most of them are noncancerous. These fibroids make periods very painful and heavy enough to cause anemia. There is pain during sex and pelvic pressure because of them. The symptoms of uterine fibroids can be managed through medication.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus – the endometrium – grows outside the uterus. The primary symptoms are pelvic pain and painful periods. The menstrual pain with endometriosis is far worse than usual. Other symptoms include excessive bleeding, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and infertility.
Perimenopause or menopause transition happens several years before the actual menopause. It starts in the 40s but can occur earlier as well. In this phase, the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen due to which the periods are not consistent. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years but for some women, it may last for a few months or 10 years.
9. Birth Control
Birth control pills or otherwise known as oral contraceptives stop normal ovulation process. This can cause spotting between periods and irregular bleeding. These pills are also used for lessening the symptoms of PMS or to manage irregular periods. For most women, coming off the pill can resume to normal menstrual cycle but some take a while to get it regular.
10. Intrauterine Device (IUD)
Intrauterine Device or IUDs are a phenomenal way to prevent pregnancy but that’s not only what they do when they’re in. In the case of hormonal IUDs, most women experience irregular bleeding for the first 3-6 months. The copper IUDs causes the periods to be heavier, crampier and longer. The advisable course of action here is to talk to your gynaecologist who knows your menstruation history.
11. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer was the common cause of cancer death in American women, but now it is easy to prevent it. The cervix is the narrow lower portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina. A sexually transmitted infection, known as Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes all types of cervical cancer. Irregular vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of this cancer.
12. Ovarian Cancer
This type of cancer is most common in older women. Ovarian cancer develops in various parts of the ovaries. Initially, it does not show any symptoms which makes it difficult to diagnose. Although a change in the menstrual cycle and lower back pain is experienced after some time. They are unlikely to be the only symptoms of this cancer.
13. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
The pelvis includes the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and the uterus. Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. The symptoms include painful urination, irregular bleeding during menstruation and foul-smelling vaginal discharge. If you experience severe symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
14. Excessive Exercise
Excessive exercise can interrupt the menstrual cycle and sometimes it may stop it. Female athletes who practice intense sports can develop amenorrhea which is the absence of menstruation. Increasing the calorie intake and cutting back on excessive training may help to restore the irregularity of periods.
Chronic stress or even a short term anxiety about a specific problem can interfere with the menstrual cycle. It may lead to missing a period temporarily. It is because of the intervention in the brain which controls the hormone that regulates the cycle. After the stress is over, your period will bounce back to normal again.