Irregular periods are a common part of the menopausal years, but there are also other potential causes of disruptions in your normal cycle. Hormonal imbalances from stress or lifestyle, changes in contraception, excessive exercise, and eating disorders can also contribute. There are things you can do to help stabilize your menstrual cycle and lessen the symptoms of irregular periods. Read on to discover more about irregular periods.
What Are Common Symptoms of Irregular Periods?
Common symptoms of an irregular period can include painful cramping, missed periods, abnormal duration of bleeding, changes in blood flow, or periods that occur too frequently.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Annual checkups are important for all women, but it's imperative that you see a doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Heavy bleeding
- Bleeding lasting longer than seven days
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Excess hair growth
- Unexplained weight gain
- Odorous vaginal discharge
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Irregular periods can be a sign that something is wrong. In some cases, women may feel relieved about not experiencing their period and may attribute their missed period to stress. For some, though, irregular periods can be an indication of primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), which eventually leads to infertility in most women.
Although the cause of POI remains unknown, approximately 10% of POI cases can be attributed to either a genetic condition or autoimmunity, a type of disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body's own tissues.
Because their ovaries are not functioning properly in POI, the body stops stop releasing eggs regularly and decreases the production of estrogen and other hormones. Similar to menopause, side effects of POI can include bone mass loss, but it can often be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), such as an estrogen patch. Women can take a simple blood test for levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to find out if they have POI.
Adjusting your lifestyle and seeking herbal supplements to balance hormones continues to be the best approach for treating irregular periods and other symptoms of menopause. If you are worried about the infrequency of your periods, or if bleeding or spotting occurs after intercourse, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
- 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 5, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.html