Q&A: Irregular Periods

Irregular menstrual cycles affect most women on occasion during their lifetime at some point.  Here, we’ll cover the most common questions about irregular periods, what causes them, and how to regulate them. 

Question One: When are periods considered irregular? 

The average menstrual cycle occurs about every 28 days, but it can vary from 21 to 45 days. If your menstrual cycle comes closer or further apart than average, it is considered irregular. Menstrual cycles may also be considered irregular if they often skip months.   Very light periods are not a problem, but if bleeding through pads and/or tampons consistently, or using more than 5-10 a day, this could be a problem. Also, passing larger than quarter-size blood clots, or needing pain medication stronger than over the counter meds is abnormal.

Question Two: What can cause irregular periods?

There are numerous possible causes for irregular periods, and your doctor can help you determine the underlying cause.. Menstrual issues can be caused by lifestyle factors, such as dieting, eating disorders, extreme exercising, and certain medications. 

Underlying health conditions can cause periods to be irregular, as well. These conditions include: 

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Endometriosis or adenomyosis
  • Cervical or uterine cancer
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • Uterine polyps or fibroids

Question Three: Is it normal to have irregular periods at certain ages?

At certain times in a woman’s development, natural changes in hormone balance cause irregular periods. These include puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the perimenopausal period, and menopause… At these times, hormone levels are not consistently regulated, and periods may be highly irregular or stop entirely. In the case of puberty and breastfeeding after pregnancy, menstrual cycles will typically become regular over time as hormone levels balance out. After menopause, women stop menstruating entirely. 

Question Four: When should I talk to a doctor about irregular periods?

If you have irregular periods or miss a period after having a regular menstrual cycle, you should consult your doctor. Women who have had irregular periods since adolescence should also consult a doctor. Your doctor can check for underlying health conditions like PCOS, uterine polyps and thyroid disorders. By identifying these conditions as early as possible, you can start a treatment plan to fend off symptoms and improve your overall health. 

Question Five: How can I prevent irregular periods?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing irregular periods. This includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and getting proper sleep. You may also work with your doctor to determine if any supplements or specific lifestyle habits could help keep your period in check. 

If you are in need of birth control, oral contraceptives are a common method for keeping periods regular.  The Mirena IUD is very effective to reduce heavy flows. Consult your doctor to determine if a method of birth control could benefit your menstrual cycle. 

Irregular periods can be effectively managed by understanding the cause and implementing a treatment plan. Our highly experienced team at Women’s Health & Wellness in Florida will work with you to address menstrual problems and achieve your health goals.