What is Irregular Menstruation?Most women have menstrual cycles that are 24 to 38 days long and last between 2 and 8 days. However, some women may have menstrual periods that either do not occur at regular intervals or vary in length.The first step to understanding if you have irregular periods is to track the various stages of the menstrual cycle. The stages of the menstrual cycle include the Follicular (before the egg is released), Ovular (when the egg is released) and Luteal (post the release of the egg). You can mark the stages of the menstrual cycle by using a menstrual cycle tracking device such as an app, or simply mark things on a notebook.Menstrual cycle tracking can help you understand if your menstrual period is regular or not. Watch out for the following signs:
- The duration of each menstrual cycle changes; i.e. sometimes it's 25 days, sometimes 28, sometimes 2 months.
- You lose varying amounts of blood—sometimes it’s a very heavy flow, and on other cycles, it’s barely half a tampon.
- The number of days your menstrual cycle lasts for changes ever so often.
Types of Irregular MenstruationIrregular menstrual periods also have types. Here’s discussing them briefly:Oligomenorrhea: This is the technical name for irregular periods, and simply refers to periods that occur at varying intervals.Amenorrhea: This is diagnosed as a complete lack of menstruation. The absence of periods for 3+ months is diagnosed as amenorrhea, and is normal only if the woman is pregnant, breastfeeding or is going through menopause. Women who fail to start their periods by the age of 6 are diagnosed with amenorrhea.Dysmenorrhea: This is a condition where menstruation is coupled with severe cramps.
Why Does Irregular Menstruation Occur?So why do periods become irregular?The first, and most common answer? Stress.Stress from work, emotional stress, psychological stress, or even great physical stress caused by intense workouts or moving houses can cause irregular menstruation. Such events cause ups and downs in the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, interrupting your regular menstrual cycle.Regular menstrual cycles are also interrupted due to:
- Changes in birth control methods, or certain pills such as the morning-after pill
- The use of intrauterine devices (IUD)
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Thyroid conditions
- Uterine fibroids
- Issues in the lining of the uterus, which can be cancerous as well.
How to Diagnose Irregular Menstruation?However, diagnosing irregular menstrual cycles is not just about ticking certain internet read symptoms. If you feel like your menstrual cycle days are varying hugely, you must consult a doctor. It helps to present the doctor with a good record of your period start and end dates, the amount of flow per period and whether you’d been passing large blood clots. The doctor may perform a pelvic exam or pap smear. They may also ask you about bleeding between periods and cramping.A few other tests you may be asked to take include:
- Blood tests for anemia
- A USG to look for fibroids, cysts or polyps.
- Vaginal cultures to look for infections
- An endometrial biopsy, where a sample of tissue is taken from the uterine lining to check for cancerous cells or endometriosis.
Irregular Menstruation Treatment: Potential Treatment Measures for Irregular MenstruationThe line of treatment offered to you will depend mainly on the cause of your irregular periods.The most common cause of irregular periods is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is a condition in which cysts develop on the ovaries, interrupting the regular flow of hormones causing the growth of hair on regions such as the face, chest and armpits due to excess testosterone; irregular periods and weight gain. Sadly, it is only due to the weight gain or the inability to get pregnant that women approach gynecologists—getting a delayed PCOS diagnosis.It is advisable to keep track of one’s menstrual cycle days, symptoms and weight and notify any changes to the doctor. While there is no known treatment for PCOS, other factors causing irregular periods have lines of treatment.Some of these are:
- Hormone Therapy: Prescription of the hormone estrogen or progestin may help bring back regular periods.
- OTC Tablets: These can help ease the pain that often accompanies irregular menstruation. OTC drugs are also commonly prescribed to treat endometriosis, which has no known cure.
- Surgical treatments: These are recommended in the case of fibroids or cysts. The type of surgery required depends on the size and location of the fibroid. Surgical treatments are also available to better the condition of those suffering from endometriosis.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone: These reduce the body’s production of estrogen and stop menstruation for a while. As a result, they help shrink fibroids and cysts, or relieve pain from endometriosis.
- Hysterectomy: The removal of the uterus may be recommended if there are too many, or too large fibroids. This is also recommended if the uterus has suffered severe damage due to pregnancies or endometriosis.
- Intrauterine devices: IUDs such as the Mirena are 5-year contraceptive devices that can be inserted in the doctor’s office. These can help regulate bleeding, if effectively inserted.
Can The Risks of Irregular Menstruation Be Reduced?Regular periods can be maintained by following a few simple habits:
- Take care of yourself: Maintain a healthy lifestyle with nutritious food. Lose weight in a balanced manner, exercise, and stay away from cigarettes and alcohol. Get enough rest and do not overdo it at the gym.
- Reduce the amount of stress in your daily life.
- Change your pads and tampons regularly maintaining hygiene around your vagina to avoid infections.
- Visit your gynecologist regularly and do not take contraceptives, as far as possible, without prior medical advice.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Irregular MenstruationWhen do you know Google isn’t making you panic and you’re actually going through something? Wait to check at least three of these symptoms:
- Unusually heavy bleeding
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Spotting between periods
- Spotting after menopause
- Severe pain during and before periods
- High fever
- Chances that you are pregnant
- Vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dizziness and fever over 102—all symptoms of toxic shock syndrome