Irregular periods can be one of the earliest indications that a woman is transitioning through menopause. Though the symptoms of irregular periods vary depending on a woman's individual cycle, a vast majority of women begin experiencing irregular periods between 2 to 10 years before they reach menopause. Read on to learn more about irregular periods during menopause.
What Are Irregular Periods?
A regular menstrual cycle is typically 21 to 35 days with 3 to 7 days of menstruation. However, a “regular” cycle is different for each woman. Irregular periods are defined as changes in a woman's ordinary menstrual cycle over several months.
Symptoms of Irregular Periods
An irregular period is any abnormal bleeding in comparison with your normal menstrual cycle. Symptoms can include a late or early period, bleeding between periods, menorrhagia (i,e.,heavy bleeding), or minimal bleeding. Women experiencing irregular periods may have missed periods, continuous periods, or periods that happen twice in one cycle.
Why Do Some Women Have Irregular Periods for Several Years?
In addition to the onset of menopause, there are a number of factors that can cause irregular periods.
Stress. Stress is a very common cause of irregular periods. This is because if you are anxious or constantly tired hormone levels become imbalanced.
Diet. A bad diet or extreme fluctuations in weight can affect your hormones. Women suffering from anorexia often have irregular or no periods.
Exercise. Intense physical exercise can upset the body and cause irregular periods. Often, athletes have irregular periods or none at all.
Birth control. Birth control pills often lead to irregular periods. This is because it takes the body some time to adjust to the new levels of hormones provided by birth control.
How to Cope with Irregular Periods?
If you have been experiencing irregular periods for a relatively short time, or less than six months, it is likely that your periods will return to regularity without the need for intervention. However, if the irregularities persist, consult a medical professional. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing you to have irregular periods. Irregular periods that last for several years are most commonly associated with menopause. Women transitioning into menopause often experience irregularities between 3 to 10 years leading up to menopause. It is expected that as a women enters this stage life, her periods will become abnormal until she stops having them completely.
Sometimes, women can help regulate their periods by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and using alternative medicines like natural herbs. Some medicines directly target the issue of hormonal imbalance that is caused by menopause. Remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body is one defense against irregular periods.
Read on for more information about treatments for 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.