Menstrual cycles don’t actually function like clock work. Different women have different period cycles which range from two days of bleeding to six days of bleeding. The length of the period cycles depend on the uterine health and sexual life of a woman. For example, an active sexual life brings unrestricted flow which continues for only three days with minimum days of pain or mental irritation. Whereas, an inactive sexual life can cause restricted flow and intense premenstrual syndrome which causes mood swings, unreasonable gloom and irritation.
Some women might also experience highly painful periods because of rare or uncommon reproductive physiologies. In their twenties, women generally have painful periods because a large portion of the uterus lining is being shed. Whereas, some have an excessive amount of stress causing their feminine hormones to malfunction. If irregular periods have become commonplace, knowledge and treatment options are important. Here’s all you need to know-
When are periods considered irregular?
A normal period cycle can continue from 25-30 days. The last day of a period and the first day of a period shall have a difference of 21-35 days in between. The period cycle has 6 days of ovulation, 3-4 days of PMS (post menstrual syndrome) and 3-5 days of menstrual bleeding. So, to determine whether the menstrual cycle is regular or not, you need to count the days between the last day of one period to the first day of the next period. If the days are between 21-35, your periods are on a healthy cycle, whereas if the days exceed 35 days for three continuous cycles, your periods are irregular. Having periods too soon, within 15 days for example, is also considered unhealthy. Some women have a cycle that continues for 20 days later than the normal 35 day cycle, which is a serious irregularity for a period.
Why do periods become irregular?
There are a multitude of possibilities that can cause the period to be irregular. While many of the causes can be controlled or treated, some of the reasons could point to a serious health issue. Here are some of the reasons why the periods become irregular-
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a leading cause of irregular periods. This ovarian disease is an imbalance of the hormones which causes the ovaries to malfunction and not release fertile eggs. This causes the uterus to get confused on the timing of the menstrual cycle and it holds on to the menstrual fluids, waiting for the egg to be released. PCOS causes cysts to form in the ovaries which make it difficult for the ovaries to release fertile eggs into the uterus. Along with the ovaries, the adrenal glands in the kidneys are also affected and start to produce more male hormones than female ones. This again disrupts the body’s hormonal signals for regular menstruation.
Thyroid or pituitary gland disorder
Thyroid hormones control the function of the ovaries which is important for a natural menstrual cycle. Thyroid glands can sometimes stop producing enough hormones called hypothyroidism. This stops the ovaries from releasing enough eggs causing uncontrolled and unexpected blood flow from the uterus. If there is a more than healthy production of thyroid hormones, the periods can arrive later than the usual 21-35 day cycle. Pituitary gland is another part of a healthy cycle. It controls prolactin which is responsible for the lining of the uterus. When there is a disturbance in prolactin levels, it causes the uterus lining to thin out and can cause the periods to come very late or stop them altogether for a long time.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammation can also cause the uterus and ovaries to malfunction, causing irregular or no periods at all. Most common causes of the female reproductive system being inflamed are sexually transmitted diseases and untreated UTIs (urinary tract infection).
While diseases can be a large risk factor for irregularity in periods, there are also non-disease related factors which can cause irregular periods. Some of the major causes are-
Perimenopause- when you’re transitioning to the menopause stage in your life, which comes around 45-50 years of age, your period cycle can become unpredictable for at least 5-10 years. It is common for women going through perimenopause to have irregular periods.
Stress and anxiety- high levels of stress and anxiety has been found to be a common cause for young women to have irregular periods. The increase in the stress hormone called cortisol causes disturbance in the ovaries which cause late or infrequent periods.
Extreme exercise- exercising is known to increase the amount of testosterone and androgens. Hence, extreme exercise routines are known to have an effect on menstrual cycles.
Eating disorders- not eating enough due to unhealthy diet plans or losing weight due to extreme exercise can also cause irregular periods.
Birth control- birth control pills, implants and rings used in the vaginal canal or uterus can also cause irregular periods.
Can I get pregnant with irregular periods?
It isn’t necessary that an irregular cycle will affect pregnancy. Some irregular cycles don’t mean that eggs are not being released in the uterus. Although in some cases, where the ovaries have formed cysts, eggs are not released or are not fertile, women without PCOS or uterine inflammation can still get pregnant on the days of ovulation. However, with an STD or PCOS, you might require treatment to get a fertile window for conceiving.
How do I treat irregular periods?
If you’re young and have gotten your first period only a year or few months back, you don’t actually require treatment. In time, your periods will start falling in place. If you’re in your 20s, however, you might want to start focusing on your periods and see if they are late or frequent for more than three months.
Get yourself checked for thyroid issues and PCOS, if you have neither of them, lifestyle changes are to be in order. Improving your diet by eating nutritious foods often and ensuring you get enough sleep every night are the first steps. If you’re on a high intensity or long hours of exercise routine, you need to calm down and decrease your exercise time. Reducing stress in your life and taking regular leisure hours for yourself is also essential to regulate periods.
If your periods are completely erratic, you can try supplementing your body with herbs that regulate the production and release of hormones. Some of these Ayurvedic herbs like ashoka, arjun, ashwagandha, jatamasi, motha, gular, lodhra, lal chandan and more that regulate menstrual cycles are present in the Namyaa Anartava Irregular Period Syrup.
There are certified herbs that regulate the hormones responsible for healthy period cycles. You don’t have to go on a pill frenzy or spend thousands on hormone therapies. Sticking to a good nutritious diet and leaning on to the cures of nature can be wholesome for a long term menstrual health.