Ideally you are supposed to get your periods every 24-29 days, but it does not matter if you get it a week ahead or delayed of your scheduled time. When periods occur sooner than a week of the scheduled date of your next period or later than a week of your scheduled date of your next period, you are having an irregular menstruation cycle.
You need not get alarmed if you are experiencing an irregular period as many times it happens due to simple reasons like emotional stress, weight gain, over exercising or dietary changes.
Types of Irregular Menstruation
This menstrual cycle irregularity is characterized by frequent bleeding or spotting on unexpected days. Any of a variety of disorders of the reproductive system results in this condition.
The time interval in this type of irregularity is a minimum of thirty five days. Women with this type of irregularity bleed just six to eight times a year.
This is characterized by a pause in the menstrual cycle for three to six months or longer. Primary amenorrhea is caused by genetic defects in the reproductive system whereas secondary amenorrhea is caused by altered hypothalamic activity.
This irregularity in periods is characterized by heavier than normal bleeding which also lasts for a longer period than normal. This can happen due to lack of hormonal balance, endometriosis (a peculiar condition in which the cells from the internal uterine lining grow and thrive outside it), tumor or uterine fibroid (a non-cancerous tumor in the uterus).
Reasons for an Irregular Menstruation Cycle
The Early and Ending Phases of One’s Menstrual Life
Periods are irregular when you start menstruating at puberty and when you are about to stop menstruating at menopause. When you first start menstruating, your periods are irregular because it may take a few months or years for the hormones responsible for scheduling your menstrual cycle to establish the time interval between your periods. Similarly when you are post child bearing age, your periods stop. Before that the hormones need to ensure that this is a gradual process so that the body adjusts to it without much hassle and this activity in the body may result in irregular period again.
More than a condition of irregular periods it is a period of missed periods. Apart from the normal phases of the menstrual life, there are some physical, physiological and emotional conditions which cause irregular menstruation occurs.
Abnormal Weight Gain or Loss
Weight gain may result in an irregular menstruation as obese women have fat cells which contain cholesterol compounds which get converted to an estrogen like substance called estrone which affects the menstrual cycle. Significant weight loss affects the functioning of the thyroid gland which may trigger a condition called secondary amenorrhea (temporary absence of periods) which is caused due to decreased production of reproductive hormones which regulate the menstrual cycle.
Conditions like extreme anxiety, depression, fear or any other emotion causing emotional stress can result in altered or missed periods. Scientific studies say that stress influences the activity of the hypothalamus in the brain which in turn adversely affects the menstrual cycle.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (a disorder in which the victims are extremely conscious of their weight and follow morbid dieting techniques) and bulimia nervosa (another disorder in which a morbid weight loss technique of binging on favorite foods and then purging them) influence the functioning of the thyroid gland resulting in irregular periods.
Exercising is good, but excessive exercising influences the reproductive hormones adversely. Excessive exercising coupled with stringent dieting results in amenorrhea.
This is because a minimum amount of fat (about sixteen percent) is required for ovulation to take place and when the body does not have this minimum amount then ovulation stops temporarily.
Travel can affect your menstrual schedule because of a number of reasons. Dietary changes, altered amount of exercising, travel stress, and altered biological clock are some travel-related factors which have an adverse effect on the menstrual cycle as all these changes affect the normal functioning of the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.
Illness and other Medical Conditions
Many kinds of illnesses, hormonal issues, polycystic ovarian syndrome, imperforate hymen and Asherman’s syndrome and certain drugs affect hormonal action on the menstrual cycle. Serious illnesses like cancer, tuberculosis, and liver diseases can affect the menstrual cycle. At times usage of an intra-uterine device can also cause irregularity in your menstrual cycle.
Nursing mothers may not bleed for months or even years. This is because hormonal actions during breast feeding interfere with those of the menstrual cycle.
When do you Need Medical Attention?
A deviation of one week from your scheduled time for periods is quite normal and you should not get alarmed about it. However, if the deviation is more than this you can consult your doctor. Other conditions are change in the pattern of your menstruation, pain during bleeding and abnormally excessive bleeding.
Treatment for Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Treatment for irregular menstrual cycle involves solving the underlying causes as stated above. Living a healthy stress-free life with moderate exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet takes care of the issue of irregular menstruation in you to a greater extent. However, there are certain causal factors that should be addressed clinically.
Irregular menstruation can be rectified by treating the underlying diseases. For example, treatment of the cysts in polycystic ovarian syndrome will automatically regulate the menstrual flow.
Changing Contraception Devices
Intra-uterine devices may at times cause obstruction in the regular periods. In such cases you need to consult your doctor who will suggest alternative birth control methods for you.
This is given for menstrual cycle disturbances which occur due to hormonal problems. Progestin is administered to patients to start the menstrual cycle.
This is done on people who have irregular periods due to uterine scars, structural complications and birth defects. The correction of the errors regularizes the menstrual cycle.