A layman only knows menstrual periods to be something girls go through every month until they reach their menopause. However, it’s not as uncomplicated as it sounds. There is an intricate science behind periods, but in simple terms; it’s a monthly process when the lining of the womb gets thicker with tissue and the ovaries release an egg and when this egg remains unfertilized, the body sheds the tissue through the vagina in the form of blood. It doesn’t come by itself, it’s rather escorted by pain, mood swings, cravings, cramps, bloating, breast tenderness and many other issues that may come before (Premenstrual syndrome) or during the period.
One widely disseminating issue faced by women is an irregular period, which doesn’t just affect the physical but also the mental health. The normal length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days; however it varies according to one’s age and physiological/psychological functions of the body. Women may experience menstrual cycles that last anywhere from 20-40 days for 4-5 days with average amount of blood stream being 4 tablespoons. There’s certainly no woman who hasn’t grappled with irregular periods and the difficulties it entails.
What are Irregular Periods?
In order to understand irregular periods, it’s imperative to understand what “normal” periods are since it varies from person to person. Every woman experiences menstruation differently in terms of being long/short and light/heavy. “Normal” is an umbrella term however normal is what’s normal for you and how you’ve been experiencing this painful test every month. And if there’s any prolonged deviation in your experience, it might be a source of concern.
Now, irregular periods are as common as the rain but it’s alarming when the irregular periods become regular. Not many are even aware of what irregular periods are and what they imply, because of which they fail to consult the doctor when they should.
What are some possible causes of Irregular Periods?
Two main causes of irregular periods are:
However, if not these 2, there might be a number of factors inducing irregularity in the experience of periods. These are:
- High stress levels: prolonged period of stress leads to the body attempting to conserve energy by preventing ovulation. This may disrupt the production of estrogen which could lead to hormonal imbalance resulting in irregular periods.
- Nutritional deficiency: we’ve all learnt at school that healthy diet = healthy body. You are what you eat and if your diet lacks nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins then it is bound to affect your menstrual cycle.
- Regular smoking: there’s nothing good that comes out of smoking and irregular periods and inability to conceive is one of them.
- PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Multiple cysts in the ovaries cause hormonal imbalance that results in irregularities like heavy bleeding for days.
- Over-exercising: highly intensive workout may put pressure on adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands resulting in irregular periods.
- Extreme weight loss or weight gain: body fat is vital in creating estrogen and so extremely thin women might experience absent periods. Like extreme weight loss, extreme weight gain would also have a negative impact on one’s periods as it would become harder for the body to ovulate.
- Thyroid imbalance: any commotion in thyroid levels can directly affect periods.
When should one visit a doctor?
If one is experiencing any or one of these issues, it’s time to book an appointment with your gynaecologist:
- Amenorrhea: not having any periods for at least 3 menstrual cycles.
- Oligomenorrhea: having periods more than 35 days apart.
- Menorrhagia: heavy bleeding that lasts more than a week.
- Number of days that the period lasts varies by a considerable amount.
- Having more pain than usual during a period.
- Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (another word for irregular periods):
- Bleeding/spotting between periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Exceedingly heavy bleeding during the period
Professional Help and Treatment:
To restore the balance of hormones in the body, the doctor would try to locate the source of the issue. If the source lies in PCOS, the doctor might recommend birth control pills or hormones to trigger the period and thyroid hormones for thyroid-related issue. Hormone Therapy which includes a hormone medication to trigger periods is highly common. However in extreme cases, surgery is carried out to correct any structural problems or birth defects.
Are there any remedies one can do at home?
- Acupressure: to force the menstrual cycle to run properly.
- Ginger tea, aloe vera: to normalise the menstrual cycle and balance the hormone levels of the body.
- Pineapple, fennel seeds: to reduce cramps.
- Fenugreek: balance the hormones level in a woman and boost the periodic cycle.
- Yoga poses: normalise the blood flow and promote the functionality of abdominal organs.
Powerful steps to prevent irregular periods:
These steps could be followed to prevent or regularise irregular periods:
- Eat healthy by following a diet that is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins especially Vitamin C.
- Exercise regularly and if you’re obese try to lose weight.
- Minimise alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Use relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation to loosen up and shake the stress off.
Irregular periods are common but one needs to be watchful and vigilant of the way one’s menstrual cycle is evolving and progressing. One can also track their periods through apps like Flo, Clue, Cycles to monitor their periods which would help them in leading a happy and healthy life. If irregularities become regular, seek professional help.