So, your period decided to play hide and seek this month. Every woman dreads an irregular cycle because it brings up so many questions and concerns. Should you worry? Do you need to call your doctor right away?
In this post, we’ll walk you through the common causes of irregular periods, signs it could be something more serious, and when it’s time to pick up the phone for an appointment.
So, take a deep breath – your period will get back to its regularly scheduled programming soon. Let’s dive in!
Understanding Irregular Periods: What Are They and What Causes Them?
Irregular periods can be annoying and frustrating to deal with. What exactly are they and what causes these menstrual misfires?
Irregular periods are when your cycle length varies by more than 7-9 days each month or you skip periods altogether. There are a few possible reasons for irregular menstruation:
- Hormone imbalance: Your reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone control your cycle. If they’re off, your periods can become irregular or even stop. This is common when starting or stopping birth control or during perimenopause.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A condition where cysts form in the ovaries, causing a hormone imbalance that can lead to missed or irregular periods, weight gain, and excess hair growth.
- Thyroid issues: An underactive or overactive thyroid gland can impact your menstrual cycle. Other symptoms may include changes in mood, energy level, and weight.
- Excessive exercise or weight loss: Too much high-intensity exercise or extreme weight loss can cause hormone changes that disrupt your cycle. Reducing your activity level or gaining a few pounds may help regulate your period.
- Other causes: Uterine abnormalities, pelvic inflammatory disease, eating disorders, and extreme stress or anxiety can also contribute to irregular menstruation.
If your periods don’t return to normal within 3-6 months or the problem is accompanied by severe pain, heavy bleeding, or other symptoms, see your doctor. They can check for any underlying issues and may recommend treatment like birth control pills, medication for PCOS or thyroid disease, or lifestyle changes to help regulate your cycle.
When Irregular Periods Are Not Normal?
Irregular periods happen and are usually nothing to worry about. Our cycles can fluctuate for so many reasons, like stress, diet changes, or travel. If your period is off by a few days once in a while, take a deep breath.
However, you should see your doctor if:
- Your period is missing for 3 months in a row. This can be a sign of pregnancy or hormonal imbalance and needs evaluation.
- Your periods become much heavier or last way longer than usual. This can lead to anemia or other issues and is best checked out.
- You’re bleeding between periods or after sex. Irregular spotting or bleeding can sometimes indicate a problem with your reproductive organs or hormonal contraception that requires medical advice.
- You have other symptoms like excess hair growth or weight changes. Changes in your cycle combined with these signs may indicate a hormone imbalance or other disorder that needs diagnosis and treatment.
- You’re over age 45. Missed periods in perimenopause usually aren’t dangerous but should still be evaluated to determine if any treatment is needed during this transition.
The bottom line is you know your body best. If something feels very off or worrisome about your menstrual cycle, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. They can check for any issues, determine if tests or treatment are needed, and help get your cycle back to normal.
Warning Signs: When Irregular Periods Indicate a Medical Issue and Require a Doctor’s Visit?
If your periods become irregular, it’s a good idea to pay attention to any warning signs that could indicate an underlying health issue. Some things to watch out for include:
- Changes in flow: Heavier, longer-lasting, or more painful periods can be a sign of fibroids or endometriosis. Lighter or shorter periods could indicate hormonal changes or thyroid problems.
- Bleeding between periods: Spotting or bleeding in between your usual menstrual cycle can be a symptom of hormonal imbalance, uterine polyps, or even precancerous cell changes. See your doctor right away for an exam and tests.
- Severe pain: If your menstrual cramps become increasingly painful and difficult to manage, it could point to a condition like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or ovarian cysts. Don’t dismiss severe discomfort—get checked out.
- Irregular cycle length: If your cycle length varies by more than 7-10 days each month, or you skip periods altogether, it may indicate a hormone imbalance or other issues like PCOS that requires diagnosis and treatment.
- Other symptoms: Irregular periods combined with symptoms like weight changes, acne, excessive hair growth or loss, mood changes or difficulty getting pregnant can also signal a hormone imbalance or gynecological problem that needs evaluation.
The bottom line is that you know your own body best. If things seem off or abnormal for you, consult your doctor. They can check for any underlying conditions through a pelvic exam, blood tests to measure hormone levels, ultrasounds, or other procedures. The sooner you determine the cause of your irregular periods, the sooner you can get the treatment you need to feel better and safeguard your health.
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about those irregular visitors. While an occasional skipped or late period usually isn’t cause for concern, if things seem really off or it’s been months, it’s best to check in with your doctor. They can run some tests to determine if there are any underlying issues and get you back on track.
Remember, you know your body best. If something feels wrong, don’t ignore it. But also try not to stress too much over the occasional hiccup in your cycle. Our bodies aren’t clocks and life happens. If needed, your doctor can provide treatment to regulate your periods or at least give you some peace of mind.
Take a deep breath and try to be patient with your body. With the right self-care and medical support, if necessary, you’ve got this! Also, don’t forget to buy Essentials extra-long pads each month so that you’re always ready when your period comes!