07 Jul Common Causes of Irregular Periods
One of the problems with irregular periods is that, for many women, period irregularities feel normal. If you’ve never had a regular period that comes about every 21 to 35 days, then that’s the only “normal” you know.
Irregular Periods Are Never Normal
However, irregular periods are never normal – even if that’s what you or your daughter are used to. Any period irregularity has an underlying cause that can be addressed. Furthermore, irregular periods mean you’re not ovulating as you should, thereby making it more difficult to get pregnant.
Your period is not normal if…
Here is a quick litmus test of whether or not you have “normal” or irregular periods:
- You don’t have a period every month (regular menstrual cycles are about 21 to 35 days long).
- You spot in between periods.
- Your cycle is completely inconsistent, with no predictable rhythm whatsoever.
- Your menstrual bleeding feels way more than your friends (you soak through multiple heavy flow tampons, pads, or period underwear daily – rather than just one or two peak days).
- Your cramps and physical discomfort render you bed-bound (or close to it).
If any of these are familiar, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN and talk about it. It’s time to figure out the cause of your irregular cycle.
The most common reasons for irregular menstruation
It’s normal for a woman to experience irregular menstrual cycles for the first year or two of puberty and then again as she approaches menopause (typically starting in the mid to late 40s). However, women in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s should maintain a fairly predictable flow cycle.
If you aren’t sure about the length of your cycle, we recommend installing a period tracking app on your phone and keeping track. Within three to four months or so, you should notice a pattern.
The most common reasons women skip have unpredictable (or extreme) periods are:
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
One of the leading causes of infertility is PCOS, in which women tend to have higher androgen levels, and they don’t ovulate regularly. In addition, most women with PCOS have other identifiable symptoms such as acne or excessive hair growth.
If you think you have PCOS, your doctor should discuss natural methods for managing the disease, such as weight loss, along with medication options (like metformin) to help with blood sugar balance.
Weight loss or gain
Women who are both underweight and overweight are more prone to irregular periods. Extreme athletes (runners, cyclists, climbers, marathon races, etc.) are in that underweight category, as are women with eating disorders. A healthy diet and daily, moderate exercise are essential to maintaining a normal menstrual cycle.
Approximately half of women develop non-cancerous fibroid tumors at one point in their life, and they can grow just about anywhere inside and alongside the uterus. However, a fibroid’s size, location, and shape determine whether or not it affects your menstrual cycle or fertility – and how. In some cases, uterine fibroids disrupt the endometrial lining, affecting periods.
Hormonal birth control and IUDs
Of course, your hormonal birth control or an IUD also disrupts the formation of the endometrial lining and can cause skipped or irregular periods. Hopefully, this was already explained to you by your gynecologist.
This is one of the most common causes of infertility, so early diagnosis and treatment help women manage endometriosis and prepare for their family-building years. Women with endometriosis tend to experience severe pain with their cycles, rather than irregular cycles, and also can have pain with intercourse. If you think you may have endometriosis, talk to your gynecologist.
Existing health conditions
Other health conditions or diseases also impact menstruation. These include:
- Health conditions that lead to excessive bleeding
- Autoimmune disorders
Schedule an Appointment With Your OB/GYN If You Have Irregular Periods
Do you have irregular periods? Schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN and get to the bottom of it.
If you have irregular periods and struggle to get pregnant, we recommend consulting with an infertility specialist. Contact Virginia Fertility & IVF to schedule an appointment.