irregular period
Menstrual Health Women's Health

Irregular Period? Abnormal Menstrual Cycle? SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?

Irregular Period

Why is my period so late? Why am I having an irregular period? Is something wrong with my body? Should I get it checked?

Or should I just calm down and ignore it?

Are you having problems with your menstrual cycle?

Bleeding heavier than usual?

Are you bleeding at an unexpected time?

Or are you not bleeding at all?

Relax, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Sometimes, we are guilty of complaining, groaning and moaning about that time of the month; very predictably it came ruining certain events in our life.

But having a normal menstrual cycle is something that most of us women take for granted.

However, when your menstrual cycle suddenly is out of sync and shows up at odd times or do not show up at all, things can get pretty aggravating.

Menstrual cycle… the word “cycle” makes it sound like your period should be like clockwork, come and go predictably every time.

Unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to experience that. Most of us have missed a period at one point or another and most of the time our menstrual cycle isn’t always on schedule. And sometimes doesn’t show up at all.

You, like many other woman, is just going through something quite common, an irregular period.


What Is an Irregular Period?

Do you have an irregular period? When someone says that they have an irregular period, they usually refer to the number of days between each menstrual cycle.

For example, you have an irregular period if the number of days in between you menstrual cycle is either longer or shorter than the normal range.

If it only has been less than 21 days since your last period or it has taken more than 35 days for your next period to come.

However, the abnormality of the duration between each period is not the only thing that is taken into account when considering irregular period, but the menstrual flow is also important to look at.


How Do You Know If You Have An Irregular Period?

There are many examples that a woman could have that can be considered an irregular period which includes:

  • Period that occurs earlier than 21 days since the last cycle
  • Period that occurs much later than 35 days since the last cycle –  If a woman who frequently goes on more than 35 days without having their period, they may be diagnosed with oligomenorrhea
  • Missed three or more periods in a row or the absence of a period for 90 days or more, unless a woman is breastfeeding, going through menopause or is pregnant. Women who have this condition may be diagnosed with amenorrhea. Young women, typically at the age of 15 or 16 who have begun to develop their breast but have yet to start to menstruate are also considered to have amenorrhea.
  • Painful period and severe menstrual cramps, accompanied by vomiting and nausea. This condition is known as dysmenorrhea.
  • Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than the usual seven days
  • Spotting between periods that usually happens after sex or menopause
  • Period bleeding or the menstrual flow that is heavier or lighter than normal

What Is Causing You to Have Irregular Period?

1. Extreme/High-Stress Levels

When you are experiencing high levels of stress, it can cause your body to go through something called anovulation, which means your body will not release an oocyte (egg), therefore preventing ovulation from happening every month like it is supposed to.

irregular period - stressed

A tired and forced to work overtime is what will happen to your adrenal gland, which produced a variety of hormone for your body when your body is going through the extreme stress of a traumatic event.

This then disrupts your body’s hormone level and the production of sex hormone especially estrogen.

And when your body is lacking estrogen, you are not able to build up the uterine lining preventing you from getting your period.

So why exactly does this thing happen when under severe stress? Typically, your body will perceive stress as an emergency and will go into survival mode.

And in survival mode, your adrenal gland will produce more adrenaline and cortisol.

Both of these stress hormones are essential in our everyday life, it helps us run, climb, sweating and regulate our heartbeat.

But too much of it can be a bit problematic.

When your body perceived that you are in a threatening environment, producing these fight and flight hormones are given the number one priority and the maintenance of other body systems are put on hold.

Stress does not only cause irregular period but other hormonal imbalance conditions as well.

2. Lack of Sleep

irregular period - lack of sleepDo you lack sleep?

Do you have lousy sleep habit?

Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is a form of physical stress on your body.

Just like emotional stress, physical stress such as sleep deprivation, and like any other stress hormone, cortisol is released in response to any or perceived stresses, in this case, sleep deprivation.

Studies have shown that amenorrhea is more likely to happen to women with an inconsistent sleeping pattern than women who have consistent sleeping patterns.

This is why it is important to have at least 5-7 hours of sleep every night. Not only to reduce irregular periods but other complications that go with sleep deprivation.

3. Your diet

Take a look at your recent diet. How’s it looking? Have you been eating healthily? Or not so? Not judging, but if you are having problems with your menstrual cycle and have not been eating properly then this could be one of the causes of it.

Eating a lot of sugar and artificial additives can cause your body to raise your cortisol hormone level.

Like previously mentioned, cortisol is a good stress hormone and all but too much can be a problem.

Too much cortisol hormone in your body can cripple the function of many other important hormones.

And your menstrual cycle needs these important hormones to go like clockwork, which in your case, is very important.

If you are struggling with irregular periods, make sure you are eating healthy, get enough nutrients and eat a lot of high antioxidant foods.

4. Thyroid Disorder

Your irregular period problem might be because of your thyroid and you may suffer from hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism or sometimes called underactive thyroid disease is a very common condition.

It is estimated that about 10% of women may have some aspect of thyroid irregularities.

Hypothyroidism is very common, and those who have it usually don’t know it.

The location of your thyroid gland is in front of your neck. And it basically regulates your body’s metabolism.

Now, metabolism is very important as it affects your body’s temperature, how efficient you are burning calories and so on.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone which can cause a number of complications such as hormonal imbalance and irregular periods.

There are several symptoms of hypothyroidism but sometimes it can be vague and often than not mimics other conditions, which includes:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dry hair and hair loss
  • Swelling of the thyroid gland (which is located in front of the neck)
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Dry rough pale skin
  • Spotting between periods
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased libido

If you are unsure if you have thyroid related problems, it is best to consult your doctor.

Depending on how severe your body lack in thyroid hormone, your doctor would normally suggest a daily pill to rebalance your hormone level.

5. Medication for Contraception

Have you been using any type of contraceptives?

Birth control pills, shots or patch?

These contraceptives use a combination of sex hormone which is estrogen and progestin and some pills only progestin.

It works by keeping your body with high level of estrogen, which tricks the body into thinking it’s pregnant and thus, irregular periods.

Whenever you begin a new type of contraceptive or go off another, it can make your period irregular and it will take months or even years for your body to re-adjust.

If you have been skipping period or notice only spotting and you are sexually active while on contraceptives, you should contact your doctor just to rule out pregnancy.

It is very important doing so especially if you have skipped or missed doses of your medication.

6. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Do you have any problems with the following?

  • Irregular menses
  • Infertility
  • Hirsutism (male hair pattern growth)
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Blood sugar problems

If you have answered yes to many of these you might be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance condition that disrupts the body’s ability to ovulate properly. A diagnosis from your doctor is recommended is you are unsure whether you have PCOS or not.

7. Excessive Exercising

Have you been hitting the gym lately?

Or did you just start exercising?

Even though moderate exercise is very important in maintaining a healthy body weight and it helps regulate your mood and sleep pattern, too much of a good thing can be a bit of a problem.

Excessive exercising can cause excess physical stress on your body.

When you are over-exercising, your body is put in a high level of exertion and forcing it to push itself above its limits.

Women who over-train will eventually stop getting their period.

Your body will perceive excessive exercising as threatening to your body and will go into survival mode which makes your body produces more stress hormones, disrupting the sex hormone needed for you to get your period.

If you have been over exercising then you need to slow down and get a rest every now and then.

8. Your Weight

irregular period - weightMaybe you are trying out a new diet and it works.

You have lost a significant amount of weight and are looking great.

Or maybe you have been binge eating and suddenly gained a few extra weights.

Losing or gaining much weight in a short period of time can mess up with your body’s ability to ovulate.

Your body needs a good hormonal balance to regulate.

But when there is a lot of difference in weight in a short period of time, it can throw off the delicate balance.

If you are losing weight then fine, it will take a few months for your body to readjust.

However please maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Losing too much fat from your body can cause quite an issue when it comes to ovulating.

This is simply because, estrogen, the female sex hormone, needs body fat to be produced.

This is why very thin women who have serious conditions such as anorexia and bulimia tend to have a problem with irregular periods.

So try and maintain a healthy BMI when trying to lose weight.

Being overweight on the other hand can also cause complications like irregular period.

Losing Or Gaining Significant Amount of Weight In a Short Period of Time

Gaining a significant amount of weight in a short period of time can seriously have an effect on your menstrual cycle.

Women naturally have estrogen that helps with the ovulation process, making the uterus as comfy as possible for a fetus to grow.

However, when there is too much fat stored in the body, estrone hormone is produced, which is a totally different type of sex hormone.

These estrone hormones, mimics pregnancy, tricking your body into thinking that you are pregnant, thus you are not ovulating.

But blood will continue to build up in your uterine wall which when you finally get your period, it will be heavier than normal.

Depending on your weight, losing only 5 percent of your body fat can get your menstrual cycle back on track; this is because fewer fat cells you have in your body, the less estrone hormone it secretes.

So if you think your weight is a factor that has been causing you to get an irregular period, start exercising and eat healthily.

Not only will you eventually get your menstrual cycle back to clockwork but you will be healthier than you are now.


The Dangers of Irregular Periods

While irregular period alone is not really harmful, it is, however, an indication that our body is telling us that something is wrong.

As you can see from above hormonal imbalance has a lot to do with the problems related to irregular period. And one thing I would like to add regarding this is that YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE HORMONE IMBALANCE LIGHTLY.

Not only does hormone imbalance gives you cramps, mood swings and fatigue but over a long period of time can lead to serious long term health conditions.

So what kind of dangers that women face with hormonal imbalance?

Low Estrogen Level – Women who have low estrogen level will have increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease

High Testosterone Level – Women who have a high level of testosterone will have increased risk of endometrial cancer and blood sugar disorder

Low Estrogen and High Testosterone Level – Women who have low estrogen level and high testosterone will have double the risk of heart disease.

This is only the beginning! There are many more combinations of high and low hormone level that can result in a number of health complications.
The best thing you can do is consult a doctor, and get your hormone level checked.

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