I have noticed a large number of posts regarding irregular periods. I thought I would take some time and post some information on this topic so maybe it can answer some of your questions.

What is an irregular period?


A textbook period happens every 24-29 days, but in truth what is “regular” covers a wide range. Cycles between 23–35 days are very common. A woman may get her period only one to four times a year. Or she might have periods that occur two to three times in a month and involve spotting or extremely heavy flow. Alternatively, she may have heavy episodes of bleeding every two to three months. Irregular periods are simply what is irregular for you.

A wide variety of factors can be responsible for irregular periods, among them:

-Significant weight gain or loss
-Over-exercise
-Poor nutrition (or a diet too high in carbohydrates)
-Smoking
-Drug use
-Caffeine
-Excessive alcohol use (interfering with how the liver metabolizes estrogen and progesterone)
-Eating disorders
-Increased stress
-Polycystic ovarian syndrome/estrogen dominance
-Uterine abnormalities (fibroids/cysts/polyps/endometriosis)
-Hormonal imbalance related to perimenopause
-Medications
-Chemotherapy
-Recent childbirth, miscarriage, or D&C
-Breastfeeding

Irregularity also falls into 2 categories:

Long Term Irregularity

Long term irregularity can be anything from a cycle that varies in length from month to month to the experience of various abnormal symptoms, for example, excessive bleeding, no cycle for months at a time, very painful periods or ovulation.

To be on the safe side if your are experiencing prolonged bleeding or very painful symptoms it is wise to consult a doctor to find out what is going on.



Sudden or Short term Irregularity

Short term irregularity can be attributed to any of the causes listed above, and are generally a one off or sporadic occurrence. These cases are probably not a cause for great concern unless you are experiencing pain or just feel as if something is wrong.

Why does being stressed out cause irregular periods?

When we are under stress, regardless of the source (danger, personal relationships, work, environment) our adrenal glands are designed to secrete the hormone cortisol (see our articles on adrenal fatigue). Cortisol has a direct impact on the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA. Eating disorders, dieting, drug use, and reliance on stimulants like caffeine and alcohol are also interpreted by the body as kinds of stress. Poor nutrition seems to physically change the proteins in the brain so they can no longer send the proper signals for normal ovulation.

What if I’m just spotting or not getting a period at all?

We’ve all heard stories from friends who’ve suddenly lost a lot of weight or begun a strenuous exercise regimen, then stopped getting their period. Anorexic women or those who exercise two to three hours a day can find their menstrual cycles diminish or stop due to a decrease in body fat. These women have low estrogen and are not ovulating. This is called stress-type hypothalamic amenorrhea, and it occurs when poor nutrition and stress alter the brain’s chemistry and hormone pathways. The brain can’t trigger the right hormones for follicle development, which make the necessary estrogens. Women with this irregularity tend to be at higher risk for bone loss (osteoporosis) and other degenerative conditions and should be evaluated.

I bleed really heavily when I get my period. What does this mean?

Low progesterone, PCOS, or another form of hormonal imbalance may be the culprit. If a woman has two or more successive months of heavy bleeding, a check-up is called for.

What can I do about my irregular periods?

The first step is to talk to a healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above. It’s a good idea to do the following:

-Have a complete physical, including evaluations of thyroid function and blood pressure. Also, a complete blood count (CBC) test is quite important for the diagnosis of anemia.

-A pelvic exam is critical to rule out any uterine abnormality, a cervical polyp or fibroid, or a uterine infection. These are less common causes but should be considered. Often an ultrasound will be required to evaluate the uterus, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Ultrasound of the uterus is useful and painless — you may already be familiar with this technique from pregnancy. If infection is a concern, antibiotics will be prescribed.

-If you are trying to become pregnant, consult with a fertility specialist or a qualified ob/gyn practitioner for further testing.

The following tips can be helpful in treating minor irregularity.

Diet - is very important. If you eat lots of fast foods you are not giving your body the nourishment it needs. If you eat sporadically, miss meals and diet constantly - you essentially send your body into survival mode. Your body thinks it is starving and shuts down unnecessary systems. A body that thinks it is starving will not cycle regularly - having a cycle that is healthy enough to support new life is secondary.Watch your diet, eat as healthily as you can.

Smoking is bad news for fertility and menstrual health. Studies have shown that smokers take longer to conceive than non-smokers, and this includes passive smoking. If you smoke - you should give it up.

Take note of your lifestyle - do you get enough quality time for yourself. Again a chronically exhausted and stressed body will not be regular.

The above information was taken from the following resources :

-http://www.womentowomen.com/menstruation/irregularperiods.asp
-http://www.menstruation.com.au/periodpages/irregular.html