5 Reasons Your Period Is Irregular
Irregular periods refers to the number of days from the day your period begins to the start of your next period. The average menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days however, anything between 21 and 35 days is normal. Longer or shorter than 21-35 days is considered early or late and would be considered irregular.
For many women, regardless of their age or the stage of their life, irregular periods mean that they are offered the birth control pill to “regulate” their cycle. This may be fine for some women as it can make bleeding manageable and predictable. In addition, the birth control pill can also alleviate unwanted symptoms like acne and pain. BUT let’s get something clear, the birth control pill does not regulate the period and it doesn’t tell us about the cause of the irregular cycle in the first place.
Causes of Irregular Periods
PCOS is a common cause of menstrual irregularities, including absent or missed periods. It is a common cause of fertility challenges and can increase a woman’s lifelong risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as she ages. A lot of a woman’s PCOS symptoms can be addressed with the birth control pill, but once she comes off of it they return. In addition, the pill does not correct the underlying issues that contribute to chronic disease as she ages.
- Thyroid Dysfunction
Thyroid function is important for maintaining normal reproductive function.
- Hypothyroid can cause irregular and inconsistent menses.
- Hyperthyroidsm can cause short, light periods or short cycles (less than 21 days)
In addition, thyroid dysfunction can result in challenges becoming and staying pregnant. Often, these women are not diagnosed until they have been trying to get pregnant for over 1 year, they have already suffered a miscarriage or after their first pregnancy.
For women who don’t have the goal of becoming pregnant, having the pill regulate their cycle without looking for a cause could leave them undiagnosed for years. Often these women struggle with fatigue and low mood for years before being diagnosed.
- Extreme weight loss, excessive exercise and/or extreme stress
The result is hypothalamic amenorrhea. This is where changes in hormone production from the brain is affected leading to a significant drop in estrogen production resulting in complete cessation of the period. If hypothalamic amenorrhea is not investigated the low estrogen state can have significant, long term, health impacts on the women including increasing risk of osteoporosis, and heart disease. These women also experience increased risk of depression, anxiety and sexual problems.
- Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
POI is the depletion of ovarian follicles and loss of menstrual period before the age of 40 (early menopause). Delay in diagnosis of POI is VERY common and this can have detrimental impacts on a woman. If a woman has goals of becoming pregnant this is a time-sensitive diagnosis that can make or break her chances of conceiving. If pregnancy isn’t a goal for her it is still important to investigate as the low estrogen state caused by POI increases her risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and possibly age-related memory problems.
High prolactin levels affect sex hormone production including estrogen and testosterone resulting in infrequent periods or complete cessation of periods. High prolactin levels are common in pregnancy and breastfeeding but otherwise can lead to vaginal dryness, infertility and bone loss. It can be caused by several different factors and sometimes is idiopathic but one cause is a non-cancerous pituitary tumor called a prolactinoma which can lead to additional issues like headaches, and vision problems.
A big problem with health care is that many women who have challenges with their periods, including irregular cycles are generally not investigated properly unless they are trying to get pregnant. They are simply put on the birth control pill. This solves the immediate concern by regulating the withdrawal bleed or controlling flow. However, it does not get women to ovulate regularly or provide an answer about what is causing the irregular period. This attitude of “we can look into this when you want to get pregnant” or “we don’t need to address this if you don’t want to get pregnant” or “everything will go away once you hit menopause” only delays inevitable need for assessment and possible treatment. Many of these causes for irregular periods don’t just go away with menopause and therefore pregnancy is not the only reason why assessment should be done since there are long-term health consequences associated. In addition, if women who are in their child-bearing years simply wait until they want to get pregnant they are delaying assessment and treatment which can take away precious time from a woman once she wants to realise this goal, especially if premature ovarian insufficiency is the cause.
At Health Over All, we make sure that we are providing women with appropriate assessment so that we can focus on the cause of the concern. “Just wait until…” isn’t good enough for your health. Contact us today to find out if our programs are right for you.
Book your free Alignment Call HERE to find out how you can work with us.
Dr. Lisa Maddalena, ND