Why Are My Periods So Unpredictable?

September 18, 2019 | Yesmom

Yes Mom

Everything you need to know about an Irregular Menstrual Cycle

Top Things to Know:

  • When a woman’s menstrual cycle length deviates from the average 21-35 days range or lasts longer than 4-7 days each cycle, she is said to have an irregular menstrual cycle
  • Having irregular cycles is common in teenage girls who have just hit puberty and women who are reaching menopause
  • The most common reason for irregular menstrual cycles is hormonal imbalance in the woman’s body due to many reasons such as birth control pills, IUDs, stress, eating disorders, too much stress etc.
  • Apart from these causes, there are many medical conditions that cause hormonal imbalance, mainly of estrogen and progesterone, leading to irregularity in periods
  • It is very easy to self-diagnose if you are suffering from irregular periods because your cycle lengths tend to vary, you may have more than one period in a month or no period for over a month
  • Treatment for irregular periods is relatively easy and your healthcare provider begins with treating the cause of it
  • Some medications are prescribed to restore the hormonal balance in the woman’s body and she is advised to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine

What Defines an Irregular Menstrual Cycle?

Menstrual cycle normal part of a woman’s physiology that begins at puberty and lasts till the woman reaches menopause between 45-55 years of age. The normal menstrual cycle in a woman lasts 4-7 days each month, during which her uterine lining is shed. 

This phenomenon occurs every 28 days in a woman but the average length of a cycle is between 21-35 days under normal circumstances. But, if a woman’s cycle is shorter or longer than average length or she gets her periods unpredictably during the middle of her cycle, it is called an irregular menstrual cycle. This makes few women often wonder why they got two periods in a month or no period for more than a month.

While each woman is different, so are their menstrual cycles. Some women have regular periods and they knock on the door every 28 days. But, there are others for whom the length of the cycle varies considerably. Irregularity in periods is quite normal in women who are reaching menopause or in teenage girls who have just begun their periods. 

Other instances that are considered irregular periods include:

  • If a woman’s cycle length varies by more than 20 days each month, 
  • The loss of blood is either too much or too little during some cycles
  • If the number of days the periods last varies each month

How Long Does an Irregular Cycle Last?

The length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is usually counted from the first day of her last period to the first day of her next period. While the regular or average length of the menstrual cycle is a woman is 21-35 days with 28 days being ideal, any deviation from this is considered to be irregular. 

Why Do Irregular Cycles Occur?

The primary reason for irregularity in periods is the imbalance of the hormones that regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. There are few common reasons for hormonal imbalances that result in irregular cycles in women such as:

  • Having an Intrauterine Device or IUD
  • Women who change their birth control pills too often – Birth control pills contain hormones and each pill has a different quantity of these hormones. Changing them too often can mess up the hormonal balance in the body and result in irregular periods.
  • Excessive exercise
  • Stress
  • High amounts of hormone prolactin in the blood that occurs during breast feeding
  • Eating disorders

What Medical Conditions Can Lead to Irregular Menstrual Cycles?

There are many known medical conditions that cause a hormonal imbalance in women and result in irregular periods. Some of these include:

  • Thyroid problems -both hyperactive and underachieve thyroid result in irregular periods
  • Polyps in the uterine lining
  • Uterine fibroids- fibroids are basically non-malignant tumors that are found in the lining of the uterus. They can trigger excessive or under secretion of estrogen and progesterone, leading to irregularity in periods
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID
  • Obesity
  • Uncontrolled Diabetes
  • PCOS
  • Some medications like those used for epilepsy, anxiety, depression etc.
  • Uterine or cervical cancer

When Should You Talk to your Healthcare Provider? 

One of the most common reasons women seek medical help for their irregular periods is when their periods are not as regular as they used to be. Since the usual length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days and can vary between 21-35 days for different women, each woman should ideally have 11-13 periods each year and each ranging from 4-7 days in length. 

If you notice that your periods, which were regular earlier, have now begun deviating from your normal, you may be suffering from irregular periods.

One of the first signs to notice is if your menstrual cycle lasts longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days. Another sign to watch out for is if the average length of your cycle exceeds 10 days or is shorter than 4 days. Also, if you notice an irregularity in the amount of blood flow during each cycle or larger than normal clots being shed-off during successive cycles, you must talk to your healthcare provider.

What Treatment Options Do I Have?

If you have been diagnosed with irregular periods, your doctor will treat your condition and its symptoms based on the cause. 

  • If your periods are irregular because of puberty or menopause, your doctor will usually not recommend any treatment. In pubertal girls, it takes about a year or two for the cycles to regularize whereas in women around menopause, the periods will eventually stop.
  • If you have irregular periods as a result of hormonal birth control pills or because you change pills too often, your healthcare provider will ask you to discontinue taking these pills or switch to a safer option.
  • If the irregularity of your periods is due to an underlying medical condition, your healthcare provider will treat the condition in order to restore hormonal balance and this will automatically regularize your periods in one or to cycles
  • For those women who are suffering from eating disorders or stress, relaxation techniques, proper diet, and stress management can help regularize their periods.

Apart from these measure, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to help regularize your menstrual cycle:

  • Progesterone pill for 10-14 days each month is effective in regularizing irregular periods
  • A low dose birth control pill that contains both estrogen and progesterone can help correct irregular periods and abnormal bleeding
  • Sometimes, your healthcare provider can provide metformin, an anti-diabetic drug to help regulate ovulation, and thereby your menstrual cycle.

Your healthcare provider will also advise you to follow a healthy diet and exercise regime which plays an important role in regulating your menstrual cycle.