Menstruation refers to the shedding of the uterus lining, called the endometrium. In general, it is bleeding from the uterus (womb) that is discharged through the vagina. This process occurs once a month in all women during their reproductive age.
Majority of the women have eleven to thirteen menstrual periods every year that occur once in every 28 or 30 days. Some women may have more and some fewer. After puberty, it takes about two years for the periods to appear in a regular cycle. Periods are also irregular before menopause.
Apart from puberty and menopause, there are several reasons for the occurrence of irregular periods, where the time between 2 menstrual periods vary substantially. Most cases of irregular periods are harmless and do not cause any complications to your health.
Causes for Irregular Periods
An imbalance in the synthesis of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone is the most common cause of irregular periods. These hormones play a prime role in the regulation of menstrual cycle. A small variation in the levels of these hormones can cause irregular periods. In some women excessive production of testosterone can lead to irregular periods.
Nutrition and Weight issues
A serious weight gain or loss of your body weight is another cause. While low body weight is the most common cause, obesity also causes variation in your menstrual cycle.
Poor nutrition is another reason. When your body is deprived of nutrition, it alters the proteins in the brain. These altered proteins cannot send signals for normal ovulation, thus altering your menstrual cycle.
Intense Physical Activities
Exercising excessively or indulging in activities that strain your body can lead to irregular periods. For most sportswomen, missed periods are very common.
Stress is a common reason. Anxiousness, nervousness or fatigue can lead to hormonal imbalance that can affect your periods. When you are stressed, the adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol affects the regulation of sex hormones, thus impacting your periods.
Anorexia (food restriction for the fear of gaining weight) and bulimia (overeating) have an influence on your menstrual hormones leading to no period or irregular period.
Alcohol and Drugs
Excessive drinking and drug use can cause irregular periods. Increased levels of alcohol in your body interfere with the method in which liver metabolizes estrogen and progesterone. Drugs, certain medications and chemotherapy can also cause irregularities in the menstrual cycle.
Birth control pills can alter your menstrual cycle. Hormonal birth control exposes your body to novel hormone levels and your body will take time to adjust to these levels. Hence, your menstrual cycle is not regulated.
Contraceptive pills cause minor bleeding. This bleeding pattern is lighter and the duration shorter than normal periods. Use of intrauterine device can also cause irregular periods.
Certain problems in the uterus or ovaries can alter your menstrual cycle. A few of the common gynaecological problems that cause irregular periods are listed below.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which small cysts are developed in the ovaries. Cysts in the ovaries lead to irregular periods or no periods because ovulation is not accurate and the hormone levels are not balanced.
Abnormalities related to the uterus such as uterine fibroids, polyps, cysts and endometriosis can cause irregular periods. For most women irregular periods is not a cause of concern. However on persistent occurrence of irregular periods, it is appropriate to seek professional guidance.