It is not uncommon for women to believe that their periods are irregular. Every woman is different and one woman’s normal menstrual cycle is not going to be the same as another’s. Irregular menstrual cycles can be a symptom that necessitates evaluation. It is important to call your doctor if you have concerns or questions.
What is a Normal Menstrual Pattern?
The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones released by the ovaries. Each month, an ovary will release an egg. This egg flows through the Fallopian tubes into the uterus. If that egg remains unfertilized, the lining that has built up inside of the uterus to support a pregnancy will shed and this shedding is what creates menses or periods. The average number of days of a normal cycle is 28 days however some women may have a shorter or longer cycle and can still be normal.
What Are Considered Irregular Menstrual Patterns?
Your doctor will need your menstrual history, so it is helpful if you are charting the first day of your menstrual cycle monthly.
- Menorrhagia is the term for having a heavier flow than normal
- Hypomenorrhea is the term for having a lighter flow than normal
- Menometrorrhagia is the combination of a heavier flow that happens at an unexpected time of the month
- Intermenstrual bleeding is when you have bleeding between periods
What Are Signs That Your Period Might Begin Soon?
When your periods are irregular, it’s more difficult to predict when they’re going to come. Thankfully, there are some symptoms that you can look out for that might help you figure out when your body is trying to send you hints about your period. They include but are not limited to:
- Breakouts and acne
- Mood swings
- Cramps or stiffness, especially in the back
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Swollen or sore breasts
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Irregular Periods?
The most common reason for a missed period in women of childbearing age is pregnancy. However, there are other reasons for irregular menses. Some include but are not limited to:
- Birth control or other medications
- Weight gain or loss of 10 pounds
- Hormone imbalances
- Poor health
- The usage of illegal drugs
- Exercise greater than 6 hours per day
- Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
- Anatomical variance such as imperforate hymen
- Asherman’s syndrome
A Deeper Look At Menorrhagia; An Excessive Menstrual Flow
Normal menstrual flow is 80 mL per month. If you believe that your menstrual cycle is heavier than it should be we encourage you to contact your doctor. Excessive bleeding during menses can lead to chronic anemia or low iron levels which can ultimately lead to lethargy, fatigue, and dizziness. Bleeding more than one maxi pad per hour soaked through is considered hemorrhage and you should be immediately evaluated if this continues.
How Does Menopause Affect Irregular Menstruation Cycles?
It is common for women who are approaching menopause to experience irregular menstrual cycles. Menopause is defined as one complete year without menses. In additon to irregular bleeding patterns, other symptoms include;
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats (where you wake and your sheets are drenched)
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Problems focusing
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular sleep patterns and/or insomnia
- Thinning hair
- Facial hair
For information on treatment options for menopausal symptoms, click here.
What Are The Treatments For Irregular Menstrual Cycles?
The treatment options for irregular menstrual cycles differ depending on the cause of the irregularity. Treatment can often include expectant management and focused charting of bleeding patterns, medical therapy, and sometimes surgical therapy. All appropriate options will be discussed in detail by your physician and it is important to ask any questions you may have.