While a normal period happens for three to seven days each month (most typically every 28 days, but equally normally every 21 days to every 35 days), irregular periods can occur at completely different intervals and for varying lengths. A regular period can be light or heavy, producing anything from four teaspoons of fluid to 12, but irregular periods can produce a lot of blood or merely spotting and anything in between.
Normal periods occur 11 to 13 times a year, but irregular periods may only happen four to nine times a year. In the first three years of a woman's initial menstruation, periods can be quite irregular, which is common and nothing to worry about. However, after the initial three years one's period should be "as regular as clockwork," as the old adage goes. If it is not, then there are various factors that could influence your cycle adversely.
The most common types of irregular periods are:
• Amenorrhea means not having any kind of period for three to six months or more.
• Menometrorrhagia means having long and heavy periods that do happen on a regular basis.
• Oligomenorrhea means having infrequent periods at intervals of 35 days or more.
• Polymenorrhea means having periods that consistently happen at intervals of less than 21 days.
For women who have had their period for several years without any noticeable difference in their frequency and duration, the sudden change to irregular periods can be quite worrying. Not every absence of your period heralds pregnancy, or worse, the onset of cancer though. If you've missed a period, by all means, rush out to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test kit. If the test comes up blank, but your period still won't show up, here are some of the most often cited reasons that could be responsible for it:
What causes irregular periods?
There are many underlying causes that could provoke irregular periods, but these are the most frequently reported ones:
Hormones produced by our bodies during huge weight changes can impact on your cycle.
Prolonged experience of stress, tension and anxiety produces excess of cortisol in our bodies, a so-called stress hormone that wreaks havoc with estrogen and progesterone levels, both of which have a direct influence on the menstruation cycle.
Periods require energy. Excessive exercise regimes leave our bodies without the necessary energy to go through the monthly cycle.
Eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia can have a profound impact on menstruation. Vomiting or starving to lose weight can affect hormones that impact on periods.
Hormones play such an important part in the menstruation process. Birth control pills may often be helpful to regulate the cycle, but at the beginning they can cause irregular periods even in women who have always had regular cycles.
The most commonly recognized cause for irregular periods - or rather the total stop of menstruation - is pregnancy. However, when your period suddenly stops, you're not necessarily preggers. Take a deep breath, let rational thought guide you before you freak out and ask your Mom, friends and colleagues to organize a baby shower! Do a pregnancy test and, if inconclusive, seek medical advice from your doctor.
You may think you're still too young for the menopause, when your menstruation stops completely when you reach age 50+, but cancer treatment and chemotherapy can bring on early menopause in women of any age, not just those of middle years. Massive changes in hormonal output are responsible for the menopause, prompting a difficult time for women emotionally.
This condition is caused by ovarian cysts obstructing regular menstruation. The disorder is often accompanied by other symptoms such as hair growth or thinning of hair on one's scalp, excessive dandruff, infertility or inexplicable weight gain. Visit your doctor without delay if you suspect you suffer from PCOS - this condition often masks more serious causes, such as ovarian cancer.
Do you suffer from irregular periods? Did you seek advice to sort it out? Please share your stories to show others they’re far from alone with this issue.
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