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Abnormal Menstruation Causes: Things That Could Be Wrong with Your Periods

Ah, it’s that time of the month again. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve had in your life; they always have this wondrous ability to catch you off guard and knock you sideways. From the unmanageable mood swings to the ugly cramps, periods show little mercy to us. However, when you have certain types of irregular periods or menstrual disorders, your periods can be even more painful!

What are the examples of abnormal menstruation?

While the length and severity of symptoms of the menstrual cycle are not the same for everyone, we can safely consider your menstruation as abnormal when your periods are too light, too heavy, occur too often, last longer, or occur after menopause. Among these several types of periods, most have straightforward explanations and a range of treatment options to relieve your symptoms. So, pay close attention to your cycle and be on the lookout for these 8 types of abnormal menstruation.

What causes an abnormal menstrual cycle?

Oh, girl, an abnormal menstrual cycle is a wild mix of life's chaos! Stress, poor diet, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), and even excessive exercise can throw your cycle for a loop. It's like a hormonal rollercoaster in there!

Symptoms & causes of abnormal menstruation

Irregular periods come with their own drama! Symptoms might include heavy bleeding, missed periods, and crazy mood swings. Let's delve a little more into the details to find out different types of abnormal menstruation, their symptoms and causes.There are around 8 types of abnormal menstruation listed as below:

8 Types of Abnormal Menstruation Causes (Menstrual Irregularities)

Here are a few types of periods that may warrant a visit to your ob-gyn.

1. Menorrhagia (Heavy or Prolonged Periods)

Menorrhagia is one of the most common types of irregular menstruation. It can cause you to bleed more than normal or cause your periods to last longer than the average 5-7-day cycle. If we go even further, there are three different forms of this condition:
  • Polymenorrhoea (menstrual cycle shorter than 21 days)
  • Metrorrhagia (bleeding between periods)
  • Postmenopausal (menstrual periods after menopause)
Most women with menorrhagia can blame their condition on hormones. If your body produces too much or not enough oestrogen or progesterone (female reproductive hormones) necessary to keep your menstrual cycle regular, your cycle goes haywire. Menorrhagia can also be caused by:
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Liver or kidney infections
  • Vaginal infections
  • Leukaemia
  • Non-cancerous uterus tumours
  • Changes in diet and exercise
  • Certain medications

2. Polymenorrhoea

Let’s find out a little more about polymenorrhoea, because you wouldn’t believe us if we said we receive hundreds of queries every month from women who are experiencing periods twice within the same month. Polymenorrhoea is a type of abnormal menstruation characterised by frequent menstrual periods occurring more often than the typical 21- to 35-day menstrual cycle. In other words, it refers to having menstrual cycles that are shorter than average or might occur “twice in a month”. Now, this only means that you have periods more frequently than the rest of us, not that bleeding lasts longer. The average bleeding period is still between 3 and 7 days. It looks and feels like a normal period, except for the fact that you might experience fatigue due to more frequent blood loss. Polymenorrhoea can be caused by hormonal imbalances, such as elevated oestrogen levels, which can lead to more frequent shedding of the uterine lining. Sometimes stress, certain medications, uterine fibroids, polyps, thyroid disorders, or reproductive conditions like PCOS can also lead to you having periods more frequently. Visit a doctor if you suspect you might have this.

3. Dysmenorrhoea (Painful Periods/Period Cramps)

Almost every woman has experienced painful menstrual cramps at least once in her life. For some, it’s part of their regular monthly routine and nothing to be concerned about. But if your period cramps are excruciatingly painful and chronic and stop you from going about your day like normal, you might have dysmenorrhoea. Depending on the causes, this condition can either be described as primary or secondary dysmenorrhoea. Primary dysmenorrhoea is a painful period caused by hormonal imbalances, and secondary dysmenorrhoea is a painful period caused by underlying medical conditions, such as
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the uterus)
  • Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID)
  • Endometriosis (abnormal tissue growth outside of the uterus)
  • Abnormal pregnancy conditions
Dysmenorrhoea is most common among women who are obese, smoke, consume excessive alcohol during their periods, or started menstruating at an early age.

4. Amenorrhoea (Absent Periods)

When your periods are absent for more than three menstrual cycles, the condition is called amenorrhoea. Again, there are further divisions in amenorrhoea: primary and secondary. With primary amenorrhoea, menstruation fails to start by puberty, and you may not get your first period even by the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhoea is when your previously regular periods become increasingly irregular or absent. Typically, women may experience this condition because of biological changes in different stages of their lives, such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause. It can also occur because of certain health conditions, such as
  • Obesity and eating disorders
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Birth defects
  • Birth control pills or devices
  • Intense exercise
  • PID

5. Hypomenorrhoea (Extra Light Periods)

Hypomenorrhoea is the exact opposite of menorrhagia: very light bleeding that often lasts less than two days. This condition is common among women who use hormonal contraceptives, such as oral contraceptives and IUDs. Some other causes include:
  • Low body fat
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Intrauterine adhesions (scar tissues on the uterus)
  • Stress and depression
  • Intense exercise
  • This condition can occur at any stage in a woman’s life, but it is more common in the period leading up to menopause and directly after puberty.

6. Oligomenorrhoea (Infrequent Periods)

Oligomenorrhoea is when you often don’t get your periods for more than 35 days and, as a result, have only four to nine periods in a year. Hormonal imbalances are often blamed for oligomenorrhoea; however, some other causes include the following:
  • PCOS
  • PID
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Obesity and eating disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Intrauterine adhesions
  • Stress and depression
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Intense exercise

7. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Finally, something you’ve heard of everywhere! PMS is a word commonly used to describe a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms that occur one to two weeks before your period begins. Almost 75%  of women experience mild symptoms that signal their upcoming period. However, when the symptoms become severe enough to disrupt your daily life, it is called PMS. There are more than 150 documented symptoms of PMS, with the most common being a feeling of hopelessness and losing interest in day-to-day activities. Some other common physical and emotional symptoms associated with PMS are:
  • Bloating
  • Sore, tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Constipation
  • Mild cramps
You may experience different symptoms every month, and the severity of the symptoms may also vary.

8. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

PMDD is the more severe form of PMS. Think of it like the difference between headaches and migraines. The most common symptoms of PMDD are irritability, mood swings, and anxiety. Women who have a history of depression, mood disorders, and postpartum depression are at a higher risk of PMDD than others, and PMDD in turn also causes these issues in women. While most of the symptoms of depression and PMDD overlap, the major difference between them is that the symptoms of PMDD subside after the start of a period, while depression can persist for weeks, months, or even years.

Risks

According to different period types, the risks may also vary, but the most common ones are:
  • Bone health: Irregular menstruation can lead to lower oestrogen levels, potentially impacting bone health and increasing the risk of osteoporosis (a bone disease).
  • Cardiovascular health: Hormonal imbalances associated with irregular menstruation may affect heart health, increasing the risk of heart disease in the long term.
  • Metabolic issues: Conditions such as PCOS, which often cause irregular menstruation, may be linked to insulin resistance and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Thyroid dysfunction: Irregular menstruation can be a symptom of thyroid disorders, and untreated thyroid issues can have various health consequences.
  • Adverse pregnancy outcomes:Irregular menstruation can make it challenging to predict the timing of ovulation, potentially increasing the risk of unintended pregnancies.
  • Sexual dysfunction:Irregular menstruation may contribute to sexual difficulties and impact your sexual health and intimacy.

Complications

Different types of menstrual disorders may come with different complications. The most common complications associated with menstrual disorders include:
  • Anaemia: Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to anaemia, a condition characterised by a deficiency of red blood cells, causing fatigue, weakness, and pallor (paleness).
  • Pain and discomfort: Severe menstrual cramps and pelvic pain can significantly impact you, making daily activities challenging during menstruation.
  • Fertility issues: Certain types of menstrual disorders, such as irregular menstruation or absent ovulation, can affect your ability to conceive.
  • Emotional and psychological distress: Menstrual disorders can lead to emotional imbalance, such as depression, anxiety, and mood swings, negatively impacting mental health.
  • Hormonal imbalance: Some types of menstrual disordersmay be indicative of underlying hormonal imbalances, which can have broader health implications.

Abnormal Menstruation Diagnosis and Treatment

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you suspect that you might be suffering from any of these abnormal menstruation types. But before that, keep a record of the frequency and duration of your periods. Jot down every additional symptom, such as cramps and fatigue, and be prepared to discuss your health and medical history. To confirm if your menstrual problem is related to any underlying health condition, your doctor may also prescribe you a series of tests and physical exams. As for treatments, your treatment options will depend on the cause of your condition, its severity, which treatment you prefer, and your medical and health history. Menstrual disorders can be quite uncomfortable to live with, but with the right diagnosis and proper treatment, every woman can live a happy and healthy life.

FAQs

  1. What is the main reason for irregular periods?

Many things can cause irregular periods, such as intense exercise, sudden weight loss or gain, stress, medical conditions such as PCOS and thyroid disorders, with the most common reason being hormonal imbalance. Onset of puberty and menopause, pregnancy, and breastfeeding can also cause irregularities in periods.
  1. Are irregular periods a serious problem?

Irregular periods are often a sign of underlying health conditions that need to be addressed. So, the best way to know if your irregular periods are a serious problem is to visit your doctor and get yourself checked.
  1. What is the most common type of menstrual problem?

The most common type of menstrual problem is dysmenorrhoea – painful periods/period cramps. The main cause of dysmenorrhoea is hormonal imbalance, but it can also be caused by various health and medical conditions. Sometimes the pain can be so severe that it keeps people from doing their normal, day-to-day activities for several days a month.
  1. How do you treat irregular periods?

Apart from medications and surgeries, you can regulate your irregular periods by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, and reducing stress and anxiety.
  1. How are irregular periods diagnosed?

Irregular menstruation is diagnosed by assessing the patient's medical history, conducting a physical examination, and utilising diagnostic tests such as blood tests, hormonal evaluations, and sometimes, imaging studies. Consulting a healthcare provider is crucial for a comprehensive diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

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