What are irregular periods?
Irregular periods, also called oligomenorrhea, is a term that is commonly used to denote an abnormal menstrual cycle. A normal menstrual cycle is when the duration between periods is somewhere between 21 days to 35 days. If a menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than that, it is said to be irregular. Apart from that, other factors that qualify the criteria for irregular periods are:
- Persistent or alarming changes in the existing menstrual cycle
- Menstrual bleeding that continues for over 8 days
- Abnormal spotting
- Too heavy or too light bleeding
- Severe cramps
- Extreme mood swings
Are irregular periods common?
Irregular periods are more common than you think. Most women experience irregular periods at some point in their lives, mostly right after menarche, or hitting puberty. Women are also likely to experience irregular periods for approximately 3–10 years preceding their menopause.
What are symptoms of irregular period?
On average, women usually have 11 to 13 menstrual periods every year and menstrual flow usually occurs for 5 to 7 days. A cycle that is significantly different than that may be deemed irregular.
Besides that, the other symptoms of irregular periods include:
- Missed periods
- Early or late periods (i.e., having a menstrual cycle that is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days)
- Abnormal duration of bleeding (less than 5 or more than 8 days)
- Severe cramping
- Blood clots that are more than 2.5 cm in diameter
- Tender or sore breasts
- Fluid retention
What causes irregular periods?
Women who are close to menopause, i.e., those who fall in the age bracket of 45 to 55 years, experience an abnormal and fluctuating hormone secretion. This hormonal imbalance around menopause is one of the most common reasons for delayed periods. Even though there is an imbalance, this process is still normal as the reproductive system prepares the body for menopause by gradually reducing the secretion of hormones.
Travelling and changes in weather can also cause irregular periods since the body is going through changes while adjusting to the changing environmental conditions. Extreme weight loss or weight gain, eating disorders, lack of sleep, stress, endurance exercises and change in diet can also affect the routine biological functioning of the body and ultimately cause irregularities in menstruation.
Moreover, changes in contraception methods can be another reason for late periods. Certain contraceptive methods are known to alter the hormonal secretion in the body, thereby causing irregularity in periods. Taking pills to delay periods can also cause several side effects, including irregular periods.
What can I do at home for irregular periods?
Hormonal imbalance is one of the major causes of irregular periods. To restore the hormonal balance, there are several things that you can try at home. These include
- Exercising regularly.
- Incorporating meditation and yoga in your routine.
- Eating a well-balanced diet that includes nuts, oily fish, fruits, and vegetables.
- Avoiding/reducing the intake of caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
- Cutting down on processed food, carbonated drinks, and food that is too sweet or too salty.
What are the complications caused due to irregular periods?
Irregular periods can cause fertility issues in women by creating difficulty in understanding the period cycle and fertility window. Women can’t get pregnant even during their fertile window period or may have complications in conceiving.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another complication that may arise out of irregular periods. It is a condition where small, fluid-filled sacs known as cysts develop in the ovaries. This causes the patient to stop ovulating regularly each month.
Other hormonal disorders may also arise out of this complication. One such complication being thyroid disorder.
How to prepare for irregular periods?
An irregular period is difficult to anticipate and not knowing when your periods will arrive can be stressful. However, having a period survival kit can be extremely helpful in these cases. This kit includes spare underwear, a sanitary pad, some tissues, and a roll-on balm for cramp relief. The kit must be small so that you can carry it with you everywhere.
Using period tracking apps that are easily available in the app store, to track your periods and symptoms, can help you estimate the next period cycle and the possible symptoms.
When to see a doctor?
Having irregular periods may be common but it is a matter of concern, which is why you should go to the doctor and get yourself checked. If your period is delayed for over 2 months, or you have suddenly started to have irregular periods, then it is time to visit your doctor.
If your period lasts for more than 8 days and you also bleed in between your periods, or if you have it in less than 21 days or more than 35 days, you should consult a doctor to identify the issue, since it is not normal. Periods can be slightly uncomfortable but suffering from severe cramps and heavy bleeding is not a good sign. Hence, if you are experiencing any of the above signs, call your doctor to understand the underlying causes and find possible solutions for your problem.
Consulting a doctor will help you treat the problems with periods and keep you safe from further complications.
If you are missing your periods or witnessing delayed periods – you are not alone and there is no need to be scared. There are multiple ways to deal with the issue.
Just make sure you talk to someone you trust – your parents, or your elder sister so that you can get to the root of the problem as soon as possible. Knowing and monitoring your menstrual cycle is crucial. It helps you understand your body better and make the right choices. It also helps in building a safer and happier period experience for women.