Introduction to Irregular Periods
A normal menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days, with bleeding usually lasting around 5 days. Most women develop a regular menstrual cycle naturally in adulthood, but irregular periods can occur
What are Irregular Periods?
A normal menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days, with bleeding usually lasting around 5 days. Most women develop a regular menstrual cycle naturally in adulthood, but irregular periods can occur for a number of reasons. Some women find that their periods come too early or late, they vary in how heavy they are, or their length changes each time.
A change in your contraceptive method can induce irregular periods, as can any other cause of an imbalance in your reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. The balance of these hormones can be upset for a number of reasons, but it’s very common for this to happen for some years after puberty of before the menopause.
What causes Irregular Periods?
There are a number of other reasons you may develop an abnormal menstrual pattern, aside from puberty and the menopause. These can range from simple lifestyle habits to some more serious underlying causes that would require treatment. Some possible causes include: Stress, extreme changes in weight, excessive exercise, changing or using a birth control pill for the first time, using an intrauterine device (IUD), polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), thyroid disorders as well as pregnancy or miscarriage.
What are the symptoms of Irregular Periods?
A change in the regular cycle of your period, e.g. earlier or later than usual bleedings as well as no bleeding at all.
How are Irregular Periods treated?
Treatment will depend on what is causing your irregular periods, and it is important to speak with your GP if you are at all concerned. They will help identify why it’s happening, and advise you on the appropriate course of action to take. Sometimes this is a simple change in your lifestyle, such as not exercising as much.
If you have recently started using a new method of contraception, such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or the pill, switching to a different type of contraceptive pill or an intrauterine system (IUS) such as Mirena might be recommended. Mirena is a small plastic device that is fitted into your womb and steadily releases progesterone, it sometimes has additional benefits such as lighter, shorter and less painful periods.
Other possible treatments include treating an underlying disease. Hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are two conditions that can commonly cause irregular periods. If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from either one of these, treatment will be focused on managing the disease. PCOS is usually treated with birth control pills or medications aimed at correcting hormone levels, whilst supplementary thyroid hormones can be given to treat hypothyroidism.
Occasionally, irregular periods can be caused by an unexpected pregnancy, miscarriage, or a more serious problem with your reproductive organs. Your GP might decide to refer you to a gynaecologist, a doctor who specialises in this area.