Contrary to popular belief irregular periods are actually quite normal and generally nothing to be too concerned about. There are numerous reasons why a woman might experience menstrual irregularities, but one of the most common is menopause. In addition to irregular periods, women who are perimenopausal (i,e.,in the stage leading up to menopause) may experience symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and fatigue. While it is always best to talk to your doctor about any noticeable changes to your menstrual cycle, there's also plenty of information available online. In the following article, you'll find some questions that will help you to interpret what is going on with your period.
What Is an Irregular Period?
The “typical” menstrual cycle lasts from 21 to 35 days, but this is not a hard and fast rule that applies to everyone: because each woman's body is different her period cycle can be too. Irregular periods can be felt as being heavier, lighter, longer, or shorter than usual.
What Causes Irregular Periods?
Among menopausal women, irregular periods are often the result of hormonal imbalances between estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones generally work as a reproduction team; estrogen thickens the lining of the uterus with each menstrual period and progesterone controls the flushing of the lining if fertilization does not take place. When the balance of these two hormones fluctuates the result is experienced as an irregular period.
Some of the more common reasons for irregular periods include eating disorders, diabetes, cancer, over-exercising, poor nutrition, or extreme weight loss or gain.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Interpreting the causes for your menstrual irregularities can be tricky and cause problems as even the most common symptoms could be signs of a more serious condition. If you believe yourself to be perimenopausal, it is always advisable to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss your condition and its effects. Regular gynecological exams are also essential to maintaining your reproductive health. Also ensure that you seek medical advice if you experience bleeding for more than seven days, bleeding during or after sexual intercourse, abdominal pain, spotting, or abnormal hair growth, or weight gain.
More Information about Irregular Periods
Shorter menstrual cycles are one of the most common types of irregularities that women experience during perimenopause. However, as every women is different no two experiences are the same. Click on the following link to read more about the different ways of handling irregular periods.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007