Women get a menstrual period when a fertilized egg doesn't implant in the uterus and initiate a pregnancy. During a normal menstrual cycle, the uterus sheds its lining, causing vaginal bleeding for several days.
Regular periods come every month and last for several days. However, women may experience irregular periods for various reasons, and the results can indicate minor or severe problems with their health.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of an irregular period is essential so you know when to seek help. The New England Women's Healthcare team specializes in women's health, including regular and irregular periods.
Our team consists of eight highly skilled OB/GYN doctors who evaluate your health and provide diagnostic tools and cutting-edge treatments to help you regulate your menstrual cycles.
Understanding irregular periods
A period is the bleeding that results during each menstrual cycle when a pregnancy hasn't occurred, so the uterus sheds its lining. Typically, women get a period about every 28 days, but it can vary from woman to woman.
A menstrual cycle can be normal when it lasts 21-35 days. During this time, a woman usually bleeds for 3-7 days.
An irregular period occurs when your cycle doesn't meet any of the above parameters; your period is longer than seven days; happens more frequently than every 21 days or less often than every 35 days; or you bleed between cycles.
Various factors influence your period, including lifestyle, exercise, body weight, and medications. Understanding what's causing an irregular period is important to get the proper treatment.
Signs of an irregular period
An irregular period has many aspects, resulting in any change in your cycle that doesn't happen normally.
A few of the major signs of an irregular period include:
- Missing more than three periods in a row
- Bleeding through more than one tampon per hour
- Periods that last longer than a week
- Periods that aren’t within 21-35 days
- Severe cramping, vomiting, or pain
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavier bleeding than normal
- Lighter bleeding than normal
Irregular periods vary from person to person and can happen for various reasons. You may have just one of the above signs or multiple, depending on what's causing the issue.
What causes irregular periods?
Many problems and circumstances lead to irregular menstrual cycles. You may have irregular periods from your first cycle, or they may start later in life.
Determining the root cause of an irregular period is crucial toward receiving the proper treatment. For example, decreasing stress can help you regulate an irregular menstrual cycle.
Three main problems can lead to an irregular period:
1. Medical issues
Some of the main medical problems that lead to irregular menstruation include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
- Thyroid disorders
Serious medical problems like ovarian or uterine cancer can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles, sometimes due to chemotherapy and other treatments.
2. Lifestyle factors
How you live your life also influences your menstrual cycle. Lifestyle factors involving an irregular period include:
- Extreme stress
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Exercise with low body fat
Extreme exercise, especially when paired with low caloric intake and stress, is a recipe for disaster in your menstrual cycle.
3. Other causes
Beyond medical and lifestyle issues, other factors can also influence your menstrual cycle:
- Scarring in the uterus
- Blockage in the fallopian tubes
- Ectopic pregnancy
Our team evaluates your symptoms and discusses your periods to determine the root cause of menstrual irregularity. Once they get to the bottom of the problem, they provide customized treatments and suggest lifestyle changes to help regulate your menstruation.
To talk to our team about an irregular menstrual cycle, call us today or request an appointment online at one of our conveniently located offices in Wilmington and Woburn, Massachusetts.