Irregular cycles are most commonly associated with women who are entering menopause. However, menstrual irregularities can affect women of all ages, and they can be caused by several different factors.
How Do I Know if I Am Experiencing Irregular Cycles?
Menstrual cycles differ for every woman, so what may seem like an irregular menstrual cycle for one woman may not be irregular for another. An irregular cycle could mean that your period comes two weeks later than usual, or it could be that you missed three periods in a row. Before worrying about whether or not you have an irregular cycle, review your history, see if you can determine a pattern, and see if anything is abnormal. An irregular menstrual cycle is defined as one that differs from your usual menstrual pattern.
Why Am I Experiencing Irregular Cycles?
There are a number of reasons why women experience irregular cycles. Some of the following are the most common.
Weight Gain or Loss
More frequently than weight gain, weight loss is a chief cause of irregular menstrual cycles. It is common for women who suffer from anorexia and bulimia to experience menstrual irregularities, although those who are obese or who gain a drastic amount of weight in a short time may also see changes in their cycles.
It has been reported that endurance athletes commonly have irregular menstrual cycles. This may be due to low levels of body fat and large amounts of muscle, which can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body. While exercise is very important, try not to workout excessively and to eat a well-balanced diet.
Stress and Anxiety
Women who are overly stressed or anxious will often report irregular cycles. Irregular periods due to high levels of stress can be managed by minimizing stress. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, pilates, and deep breathing exercises.
Irregular periods are but one of the many harmful side effects of drug abuse. When the body struggles to eliminate toxins, hormone levels become imbalanced and irregular menstrual cycles may occur.
After women give birth, they often expect their menstrual cycles to return to normal immediately. However, irregular menstrual cycles can continue while a woman breast feeds. Menstruation should return to normal when a woman finishes breast feeding.
Perimenopause is the stage in a woman's life where she is most likely to have an irregular cycle. As a woman's body prepares to stop menstruation completely, she may experience irregularities in her cycle.
If you are concerned about irregularities in your menstrual cycle, consult your doctor. Typically, there is no cause for concern if you experience an irregular cycle for a brief time. Unless you are perimenopausal or pregnant, your cycle should regulate itself eventually.
Click here for more information about treating irregular periods.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007
- 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.