Irregular periods are something many of us experience during at least one point in our lives. When we talk about irregular periods, we are talking about several different symptoms.
One, when your period is skipping or infrequent. For example, if you typically have a period once every month, but after one period in February, there is no period in March, but your period returns in April—this “skipping” is considered an irregular period.
Two, when your period is suddenly different. For example, if you typically have a period that lasts five days with a moderate menstrual flow, but suddenly you are experiencing very heavy, ten-day long periods. This sudden shift in the nature of your periods would also be considered irregular.
Third, if your period has been nonexistent for several months. Missing your period is considered an irregular period.
If you have missed your period or have been having an irregular period, you might be upset, frustrated, and worried. However, it is important to remain calm and assess the facts about your irregular periods determine if your situation requires medical attention. Even if your current menstrual cycle is regular, you should still read about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for irregular periods. This way, you will be much more prepared to deal with them if they happen to you.
When doctor’s ask, “Is your period regular?” they usually mean: “Is your period generally consistent?”
As you know, every woman’s period is different. What is normal for you may not be normal for your mother, your best friend, or the neighbor down the street. Most women will have between eleven and thirteen periods each year, which averages out to about one period each month. Some women experience menstrual bleeding for only a day or two, while others experience a week to ten days of menstrual bleeding.
A woman’s menstrual bleeding may be light, heavy, moderate or all of the above during certain days of their period. It is important for you to recognize what is normal for your period, because you will have an easier time recognizing when something is just not right. If you haven’t already begun doing so, keep track of your period by marking each day of bleeding on your calendar.
It may also be helpful to note the heaviness of your period on those days.
What causes irregular periods?
The first thing most women think when their period suddenly skips, changes, or is missing altogether is: Pregnancy. Pregnancy is one of the most common causes for missed periods. If you have been sexually active in the months leading up to your missed periods, you should take a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If you are still experiencing your period, however infrequent, it is unlikely that you are pregnant—however, you may still want to take a pregnancy test just to be on the safe side.
It is not atypical for periods to be irregular during the first few years after your first menstruation. The hormones that control menstruation may be shifting and changing along with your body, and will usually balance out after several years. If you have only had your first menstruation within a few years, you may simply want to make a note of your irregularity at your next check-up and play the waiting game while your body’s hormones balance themselves out.
Some women experience irregular periods when they approach menopause. Approaching menopause can be a very difficult time for women, and suddenly changed periods will certainly only add to your stress. If you believe you might be approaching menopause, consult your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.
Although pregnancy, a recent start to menstruation and menopause are the most common causes of irregular periods, there are several other causes for irregular periods that you should recognize.
Food and Exercise in Relation to Irregular Periods
Weight loss, exercise, and your food intake can all have a effect on your body that you didn’t intend: irregular periods.
Both excessive weight loss and excessive weight gain can cause menstrual problems, such as missed or irregular periods. While you might typically associate low body weight with irregular periods or the loss of periods entirely, high body weight or obesity can also contribute to irregular periods. If you have either lost or gained an excessive amount of weight in a short period of time, this sudden change in your body may be causing imbalances that can cause your period to become irregular.
A sudden increased amount of exercise can also cause irregular periods. Missed and uncommonly light periods are a common symptom in endurance athletes, who train excessively hard in the months leading up to competitions and events.
But even non-athletes can experience irregular periods resulting from an increased amount of exercising. If you are losing or gaining weight, always work with a doctor, especially if any natural functions of your body (such as your period) seem to be changing.
Eating disorders can also be a cause for irregularity in your period. Any mental disorder that affects what you eat and how much exercise your body gets can have a devastating effect on your body—not only your menstrual cycle, but other vital functions your body needs to exist. If you currently suffer from an eating disorder, with or without irregular periods, please consult a doctor for treatment options that can help you recover.
Mental Causes of Irregular Periods
Your mind and your body are connected. When you are stressed out, upset, depressed or otherwise mentally exhausted, your body may suffer as a result. High amounts of stress and depression are the two most common mental causes of irregular periods. Many women find that their periods are different or even missing for a few months after a highly stressful event, such as the death of a loved one, strong interpersonal problems or the loss of a job.
If you have been experiencing a high level of stress or any other negative emotion, you may wish to talk to a therapist or loved one about your problems. When you reduce the level of stress in your life, your body will often follow suit and restore your typical period on its own.
Medicines and Irregular Periods
The medicines you take can have an effect on your period. Birth control medicines are the most typical medicine that causes period irregularity. You should always indicate any period irregularity to your doctor when you are taking a method of birth control—although it may not be cause for medical concern, it will be something you need to keep track of while you are taking your birth control.
Any drugs that change the hormone levels in your body may also cause irregular periods. The hormones that regulate your period are very sensitive, and if they are pushed off balance it can affect the duration and heaviness of your menstrual cycle. If your period has been effected by a medicine, consult your physician and explain your symptoms.
What do I do if my period is irregular?
If you have missed your period or find that your period is irregular: Relax. Because there are so many things that can cause irregular periods, it is something that many women experience. Reducing the stress in your life and determining the cause of your irregular periods help most women return their period cycles to normal.
However, if your period remains irregular for a long period of time, or certain instances occur, you should contact your physician.
When should I go to my doctor about my irregular periods?
–You should contact a physician if any of the following apply to your irregular periods:
You are over 15 and have never experienced menstruation
Your irregular periods are a likely result of medicine
You are experiencing any abdominal pain
You are experiencing abnormally heavy vaginal bleeding
If you still are not sure what may be causing your irregular periods, you may want to consult you physician.
Is It Normal to Have Irregular Periods After Pregnancy?
Irregular periods after pregnancy are a common experience reported by women who have become pregnant. The menstrual cycle occurs in order to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy. During this cycle, the uterus becomes lined and prepared for a fertilized egg, and the woman’s ovaries release an egg. When the egg is not fertilized through contact with a male’s sperm, the uterus sheds its lining, causing the menstrual period.
After the end of the period, the menstrual cycle begins again. When the egg is fertilized, the menstrual cycle ceases and does not occur at all during her pregnancy. Many women believe that once they have given birth, the menstrual cycle will resume its normal functions almost immediately. Although this may be the experience for some reason, in general, a woman’s menstrual cycle does not resume normally for several months. This is due to the numerous amount of changes that a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy, which can in turn effect the hormones that regulate menstrual cycles and menstrual periods after pregnancy.
Irregular periods after pregnancy can manifest in several ways. They may not occur around the same time as they did before the pregnancy, such as occurring in the middle of the month instead of the beginning of the month. A woman may also experience a distinct change in the heaviness of her menstrual period flow, such as unusually light periods or unusually heavy periods. The menstrual cycle may not resume normally for several weeks or in some cases, several months.
One of the main causes for irregular periods after pregnancy are hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances are common in the first few months after childbirth and after postpartum bleeding has ended. These hormonal changes may cause irregular periods for several months – usually three or four, but sometimes up to six or seven months – after a woman has given birth. Some women do not experience irregularity, however, and can resume a normal menstrual cycle as early as a month after giving birth. Women who do not breastfeed usually experience quicker restoration of their menstrual cycle over women who do breastfeed. This is because breastfeeding suppresses ovulation and menstruation in the body.
There are also several other conditions or factors…
After giving birth, women generally experience what is called postpartum bleeding. Postpartum bleeding is the discharge of the uterine lining after birth. This bleeding can occur for up to 6 weeks after giving birth and is not considered menstrual bleeding because it does not take place during a menstrual cycle. Postpartum bleeding is often confused for irregular periods immediately after pregnancy due to many women’s lack of familiarity with this post-pregnancy bleeding.
Typically, postpartum bleeding begins with bright red bleeding for several days, which gradually turns a pink or brown color over the next week. After two weeks have passed, the bleeding becomes a cream-colored discharge which can be experienced for about 5 weeks or so. During the time of postpartum bleeding, a woman will not experience her menstrual cycle.
Breast feeding may also cause a delay in the menstrual cycle and irregular periods in new mothers. Breastfeeding can prolong the resuming of a menstrual period for up to 6 months, in comparison to 6 weeks in women who do not breastfeed.
So, is it normal to have irregular periods after pregnancy?
Irregular periods, such as periods which occur during different times of the month or are unusually light or heavy, are the rule when it comes to menstruation experienced for the first few months after giving birth. It is normal to experience irregular or “different” periods for up to three or four months in women who do not breastfeed and up to six months in women who do breastfeed.
Women who are experiencing abnormal periods for longer than four to six months should visit a physician to determine if there may be something else going on that is causing irregular periods. Most of the time, all it takes for the body to resume normal periods is time. The body will need time to get back to normal after the hormone-riddled experience of pregnancy.
There are certain treatments which can help regulate and stabilize hormone levels and could help get the body back on track in women who are not breast feeding. Women who are breast feeding should not take medications to regulate their hormone levels.
Women who experience irregular periods after pregnancy may find them to be annoying or uncomfortable, but they are rarely harmful or dangerous. If a woman experiences extremely heavy bleeding or sudden heavy bleeding or clotting, this may be a sign that a part of the uterine lining or placenta has not passed properly. This could also indicate a uterine infection. In both cases, medical attention should be sought to rule out infections or other more serious conditions. So if you are still having irregular periods after pregnancy, you may want to consult with your physician.