For some women, periods make them feel empowered and in touch with their personal realm of womanhood. They’re not ashamed of their periods, they’re emboldened by them! Others take more of a “WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?” approach to their period, and end up in a fetal position with a heating pad and a bottle of pain killers for an entire day. Some are totally indifferent to their periods, and just hate have to deal with ruining their underwear.
Then there are those folks who would probably have more of a solid opinion of their period if they knew when the hell it was going to happen next. Or if they knew if this period was going to be ultra heavy for the fourth time in a row. For them, their periods are almost always irregular and cause more confusion than passion. If you can relate and want to know what on earth is going on with your uterus, here’s everything you need to know about irregular periods.
What is an irregular period?
Before we define an irregular period, lets define a normal period. A normal period occurs for three to seven days every month–usually every 28 days but it could happen every 21 days to every 35 days. Lighter periods can produce as little as four teaspoons of blood while a heavier period might produce up to twelve teaspoons of blood.
So an irregular period can mean a lot of different things. There could suddenly be a longer or shorter period of time between your periods than usual, or you could produce a lot more or a lot less blood. The duration of your period itself can also be wonky. All of these loosely define an irregular period.
So there are different kinds of irregular periods?
Yep, here are the fancy schmancy names for each of ’em:
Oligomenorrhea: Infrequent menstruation in intervals of 35 days or more. Normal periods occur from 11 to 13 times a year. Infrequent ones can occur only four to nine times a year
Polymenorrhea: Periods that constantly occur in intervals of less than 21 days. Think of this as the opposite of oligomenorrhea.
Menometrorrhagia: Long, heavy periods that occur on a regular basis.
Amenorrhea: Not having your period at all for three to six months or longer.
How do irregular periods even happen?
There are so many different causes of irregular periods, so let’s go through the most common causes, shall we?
Stress: Freaking out lately? Feeling tense and anxious with no end in sight? Your body is producing a whole lot of Cortisol, a stress hormone that likes to mess with your estrogen and progesterone levels, both of which have a direct impact on your cycle.
Excessive weight gain or loss: The hormones that your body produces when your body goes through a massive weight change can throw off your cycle.
Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia: Starving or vomiting to lose weight can affect hormones in the body, which affect menstruation.
Exercise: Menstruation requires energy but if all of your energy is burned through excessive exercise, your body doesn’t have enough energy left to menstruate.
Birth Control Pills: Hormones, hormones, hormones. While birth control pills often help regulate one’s period, starting off they can make periods irregular for women who have always had regular periods.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is caused by ovarian cysts which can get in the way of regular menstruation. This disorder can be accompanied by hair growth, weight gain, thinning of the hair on one’s scalp, excessive dandruff and infertility. If you think you might have PCOS please see a doctor! This condition could lead to more serious problems down the road, like ovarian cancer.
Pregnancy: This is the one thing you’re really hoping isn’t the explanation for your missing period, right? Well, yes, periods stop with pregnancy but jus because your period stops doesn’t mean you’re pregnant. You can start breathing again.
Menopause: You know, when you stop getting your periods all together. But you probably don’t have to worry about that right now.
Okay, I think I might have irregular periods. What should I do?
Set up an appointment with a doctor so that they can make an official diagnosis. This is especially important if abnormal pain is associated with your irregular periods.
Is there a way to treat them?
How your irregular periods are treated depends on its cause. If you’ve been super stressed out lately, finding ways to manage your stress levels could be your cure. Try yoga, deep breathing or changing up your schedule so that it is more manageable. Talk to a school counselor or therapist if your stress is caused by emotional problems that yoga poses just won’t cure.
If your diet is the culprit, talk to your doctor about changing your eating habits. This goes for those of you with irregular periods that are caused by over eating and under eating. Finding ways to treat your eating disorder will subsequently help treat your period problem.
Over exercising? Exercise less.
Birth control the culprit? Give it some give for your body to adjust because right now your body is all OMG HORMONES WHAT’S GOING ON? If this continues for longer than three months, however, your doctor might ask you to change birth control completely.
However, birth control can also help regulate periods for some, including people who are suffering from irregular periods due to PCOS. Birth control that contains estrogen and progesterone are often prescribed to help get periods back on track. But for people who don’t get periods, a hormone medication called progestin can help trigger them.
Surgery might be the last resort for some people who experience irregular periods. If there is scarring on one’s fallopian tubes or structural problems in the uterus can eff up menstruation. In that case, the only way to fix it is by going under the knife. Eep! But hey, for anyone who wants to have kids in the future, this might be mandatory.
I haven’t had my period for very long but it’s super irregular, what’s up?
If you got your first period within the past three years, don’t worry about your period seeming irregular. You might even have your period months apart within those first few years. It usually takes time for you body to figure out its own menstrual schedule. If you’ve had your period for over three years and things are still a little funky, then you might want to talk with your doc.
I kind of like not having my period all the time. What’s so bad about this?
Okay, I get it, periods can sort of suck but think of it this way: Your period being effed up means that your body is effed up. And having an effed up body can be a little scary in the long run.
This can especially seem like a hard sell for those of you who suffer from disordered eating and rarely have your period. But trust me, once you’re ready for recovery you’re going to appreciate the fact that your period is a sign of improvement.
And here’s a video with all of the facts you need to know about late periods:
Do you deal with irregular periods? Are you trying to find ways to get it regulated? Tell us in the comments!