The menstrual cycle is closely linked with the body's well-being. When the body is affected by hormonal shifts, illness, medications, and environmental change, changes in menstruation patterns are often the first outward symptom a woman notices. Irregular periods are characterized by sporadic, unpredictable, and infrequent menstrual bleeding that may be heavier or more painful than regular menstruation; bleeding may also contain clots, and spotting might occur between periods. Read on for the facts about irregular periods: who's affected, how common they are, and what they symptomize.
As Many as 5 Million Women in the U.S. Are Affected by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Irregular periods can be symptomatic of potentially serious issues in your reproductive system, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS occurs when, for reasons that are not fully understood, the ovaries make too many androgens (i.e., male hormones); this affects the formation and release of eggs during ovulation, which is why irregular periods often occur as a result. Between one in ten and one in twenty women have PCOS, and the long-term dangers of the condition include infertility.
As well as irregular periods, keep an eye out for unexplained weight gain, excessive hair growth, and an inability to conceive in order to identify PCOS, and arrange a doctor appointment if you are worried.
70% of Women Experience Menstrual Irregularities in the Approach to Menopause
Perimenopause is one of the most common explanations for irregular periods in forties and early fifties. During these years, the body produces less estrogen and progesterone (i.e., the hormones that drive the menstrual cycle), which can cause sporadic, infrequent, and heavy periods to occur. The hormonal imbalances that cause irregular periods can also lead to a number of other condition in the body, such as thyroid disorders, of which irregular periods are also a symptom.
176 Million Women Worldwide Suffer with Endometriosis
Endometriosis occurs when parts of the uterus wall lining embed onto other parts of the reproductive area, causing inflammation, pain, and - in extreme cases - infertility. Displacement of the lining can cause sporadic menstruation, with no routine or regularity. Menstrual bleeding could be lighter or heavier than normal, periods are likely to be irregular and unpredictable, and clots might appear in menstrual bleeding as anticoagulants struggle to keep up with the rate of heavy bleeding.
Inability to become pregnant, constipation, diarrhea, pain when passing stools and urinating, depression, tiredness, and pain after sexual intercourse alongside irregular periods may be caused by endometriosis.
Stress is the Most Common Cause of Work-related Illnesses
Irregular periods can be caused by stress. Basically, the menstrual cycle is influenced by environmental and lifestyle factors as well as internal ones, and stress is one of the most common examples of this. A phase of emotional difficulty, significant change, or prolonged anxiety is likely to cause irregular periods. Other external causes of irregular periods include diet: the menstrual cycle is linked with physical condition, so what you put into your body plays a role in regulating periods. In addition, extreme weight loss or gain can make periods irregular or even temporarily stop them occurring at all.
Irregular periods are a symptom rather than an actual condition, so treating them is normally a question of righting whatever is causing them to occur in the first place. In cases of illness, medication may be necessary for this, but during perimenopause, a series of dietary, lifestyle, and habitual adjustments are usually recommended for restoring menstrual regularity. In all cases, it's important for women to prepare for unexpected periods by carrying a supply of sanitary wear in their handbag to avoid being caught unawares by bleeding.
- Health and Safety Executive. (n.d.). Stress related and psychological disorders in Great Britain (GB). Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://www.hse.gov.uk/STATISTICS/causdis/stress/index.htm
- National Health Service UK. (2013). Endometriosis. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Endometriosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- National Health Service UK. (2013). Periods, irregular - Causes. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Periods-irregular/Pages/Causes.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Menstruation. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/menstruation.html
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Endometriosis fact sheet. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/endometriosis.html
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html#a