Irregular periods are usually one of the first signs that indicate a woman is approaching menopause, and therefore, it is important to be able to recognize them. However, the symptoms of irregular periods vary for each woman, as do regular periods, so trying to identify when you are encountering irregular periods can be tricky. Each woman has a different cycle, so before you can identify the symptoms of an irregular period, you must know what is regular for you.
Why Do You Get Irregular Periods as You Approach Menopause?
On the onset of the transitional phase between fertility and infertility, women's hormone levels become very unbalanced. This imbalance can wreak havoc on menstrual cycles because they rely so heavily on hormones to function correctly. However, irregular periods are not always a result of menopause. Hormonal imbalance can impact the menstrual cycle at any stage in life.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopausal Irregular Periods?
If you are approaching the age bracket when menopause usually starts, then chances are that you know your body fairly well by now and are familiar with your periods. Understanding your menstrual cycle and knowing what is regular for you is vital in identifying what is irregular. Below is a list of symptoms you should look out for:
Infrequent periods. The length between your periods becomes significantly longer than it has been previously.
Too-frequent periods. The length between your last period and your next is significantly shorter than it has been previously.
Painful cramping. You may experience worse or more frequent pain in your abdomen than normal.
Abnormal length of period. This entails bleeding for more days than is normal.
Heavier or lighter bleeding. It will vary for each woman, but your blood flow is likely to change.
Spotting. Bleeding erratically between periods is a sign of irregularity.
Blood clots. More blood clots may appear when you bleed.
- Change in fertility levels. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause anovulation, which is when the ovary doesn't release an egg. This is rare, however, so for most women, pregnancy is possible throughout perimenopause.
If you think you are experiencing irregular periods and you are concerned about why this is happening or need advice about menopause, visit your doctor. Irregular periods are a very normal part of the menopausal phase, though, so losing sleep over them is unnecessary. For more information about why women encounter irregular periods and how you can manage them, follow the links below.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Office on Women's Health. (2014). Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.html