A skipped period once in a while is scary. An irregular period that happens often is a recurring nightmare. Having an irregular menstrual cycle is not fun, to say the least. I mean, there’s that constant fear of Aunt Flo showing whenever and wherever, especially when you have something important planned (or are wearing white). Or how about the everlasting agony those pre-menstrual cramps bring along? This ‘surprise’ isn’t the kind of surprise any of us really want. The female hormonal system is so complicated, there could be so many factors that drive it to push or delay your period…resulting in irregularity. Scroll down to see the various irregular period reasons that could be the cause of your delayed menstrual timetable. But, first let’s understand what this actually means!
What do you mean by an irregular period?
Any menstrual cycle is supposed to run like clockwork. A normal cycle usually starts from day 1 of your period to 28 to 30 days post it. However, this number isn’t set in stone––for most women it can vary anywhere between 21 days to even 35 days. So then what exactly defines an irregular period? Well, go back to the last day of your previous period. Now, count the days between that and the first day of your next. Continue this process over a period of three months –– if the gap between the two doesn’t fall under the 21 to 35 day mark, you can deem Aunt Flo as an irregular visitor.
Irregular Period Reasons
As I’ve mentioned, the female reproductive system doesn’t have it easy! There could be several underlying reasons as to why your period is irregular. While a lot of them are treatable or can be controlled via medication or diet, there are some that honestly require medical attention and guidance. On a side note: Always consult your gynaecologist before considering any treatment options! Now let’s dive in.
Reason #1 - PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
One of the most common hormonal conditions a lot of women face today, PCOS or PCOD in simpler terms occurs when your ovaries push your body to overproduce androgens (aka a male hormone) and also drive it to develop an insulin resistance. International studies have found that 87 per cent of women who experience irregular periods actually have PCOS. According to a 2021 nationwide PCOS survey, 1 out of 5 women in India have this metabolic and hormonal condition.
Reason #2 - Thyroidism
Another medical condition that can result in irregular periods is thyroidism. Whether this gland produces more of the hormone, less of the hormone, or there’s too much prolactin in your blood, it can all lead to your cycle’s regularity.
Reason #3 - Stress
One of the leading modern-day aggressors that can mess up your cycle and how is stress. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a stress-free world, and chronic stress (or even anxiety) can cause your once punctual period to be irregular and all over the place.
Reason #4 - Perimenopause
When you hit perimenopause, your body gradually starts showing it through your cycle. It’s part of the process of ‘maturing’, during which your period goes a little crazy and decides to show up whenever it feels like it. This often results in skipped and irregular periods as you build up to menopause.
Reason #5 - Eating Disorders
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, obesity or binge eating disorder can all cause your periods to go haywire. This is because your body isn’t getting enough nutrients or is being fed unhealthy foods in one go, causing an imbalance in your system.
Reason #6 - Endometriosis
Another medical cause of irregular periods could be endometriosis. This condition causes cells to grow outside the uterus, when they normally would grow inside it. The cells are what make your uterine lining, which eventually thickens and sheds, resulting in your period. This causes heavy bleeding, large blood clots, and irregularity too!
Reason #7 - Age
Of course this applies to perimenopausal women, but it also matters to those who are just starting their period too. If you’ve just hit puberty, it’s important to note that it takes some time for your body to adjust to a pattern. So expect irregularity––it’s pretty normal.
Reason # 8 - Extreme Exercise
Hit the gym recently? Or started exercising really vigorously? Well, that could be another reason why your period must be irregular. Too much exercise can throw your period off and can even cause you to miss it!
Reason #9 - Extreme Diets
Extreme weight loss through diets like keto can tip the hormone scales off a bit, and cause immense stress to your body. This can cause irregularities with your period, where you can skip a period too!
Irregular Period Treatments
There are many irregular period treatments you can consider, depending on what’s causing your menstrual cycle to sway away.
1. Watch your diet
Diet plays a huge role in how your body, especially your hormones behave. PCOS can be managed to a certain extent by consuming the right kind of nutrients and staying away from anything that can cause a flare-up. The best food for irregular periods includes a diet that contains aloe vera, cinnamon, turmeric, pineapple, parsley, beetroots, and even ginger. The vitamins and minerals present in these foods help balance the scales to keep those cycles regular. Even nutritional supplements that support women’s reproductive health, can help treat your system internally.
2. Mental Health Care
If your irregular periods are being caused by stress or anxiety, it’s best to keep the ‘worry’ at bay. Consult a therapist or a psychologist to help you deal with your stress. Meanwhile, involve yourself in stress-busting activities like yoga, tai chi, or running. Avoid over-exercising during this period as it may also trigger your period to be irregular, once again. If you tend to feel overstressed before heading to bed, then opt for a bedtime drink like chamomile tea or Bling Me Bliss, that will help calm your mind and relax you naturally.
If you are dealing with an eating disorder, please consult a professional to help guide you.
3. Body Weight Maintenance
Both being over and underweight can cause an irregular period. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, especially with those who have PCOS––this helps with lowering insulin levels and testosterone levels too! It’s important to note that every body is beautiful and while BMI is not the only way to measure health, being overweight or underweight can trigger several health issues that aren’t just limited to your hormonal health.
When To Seek Help
In all honesty, irregular periods every now and again are nothing to worry about. Seek help, if it’s a medical (endometriosis, PCOS, thyroidism), you’re perimenopausal, are irregular quite often, or are trying to get pregnant.
Irregular periods are pretty normal for several reasons! A healthy lifestyle that focuses on balancing out your hormones often helps treat the condition and bring it back on track. It’s not alarming––however, if the condition persists for long, then it’s best to seek medical attention as there might be other underlying issues that require serious help.