If you suffer from irregular periods, you may well be the envy of your friends. Having to buy pads less often and going an extra few weeks, or even months without period cramps. Jackpot! It almost sounds like the holy grail of uteruses? Well, if you are a member of the irregular periods club, you’re probably sitting there rolling your eyes. Having irregular periods isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sacrificing cute pairs of underwear, stubborn acne, pregnancy anxieties, fertility worries, and generally feeling like your body is out of whack are all likely to be monthly occurrences for you. We feel your pain!
So to put an end to your frantic google searching, we are here to answer the age old question, ‘why am I having irregular periods?’. But first...
What is an irregular period?
The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but it is common to have this vary by a few days either side. So many factors go into the regularity of our menstrual cycle; hormones, stress levels, and external factors too. It almost seems like a complete chance that all these biological factors will sync up to create a cycle that is on time month after month.
However, do not be thrown off by what is normal for your friend or sister, there are no two periods the same. What is irregular for you, may not be irregular for your fellow uterine supporting friend. But what if your period is constantly falling outside of the typical range?
Why am I having irregular periods?
It is normal to have irregular periods for the first year or two when you first start having periods. It is just your body just finding its rhythm. If this sounds like you, we recommend carrying a few extra pairs of undies, spare pads and a stash of FabLittleBags with you for when you get your unexpected ~monthly gift~. Keep going, you’ve got this.
On the other end of the spectrum is menopause. Between the ages of 45-55, our hormone levels fluctuate and your period may become irregular before stopping completely. It is worth bearing in mind that menopause can have an early onset in women under the age of 40, something your GP can help diagnose.
If you have irregular periods you’re probably already sick of hearing this, but we couldn’t leave it out. Pregnancy can cause spotting and also puts a halt on periods. It’s worth ruling this out - if only to put your mind at ease.
Stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, and your period is no exception. When we become stressed, our body releases the hormone cortisol, which in turn suppresses the normal levels of reproductive hormones, resulting in irregular periods. This is called hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Weight loss or gain
Dramatic weight loss or gain can also result in irregular periods. If you have a restricted diet, the lack of calories can lead to a halt in the production of reproductive hormones. On the other end of the spectrum, dramatic weight gain can cause a rise in the hormone oestrogen, leading to irregular periods.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Affecting 1 in 5 women in the UK, PCOS is a common cause of irregular periods. This affects the functioning of our ovaries, resulting in irregular ovulation, and irregular periods. Other symptoms of PCOS include excessive hair growth, acne, weight gain or difficulty getting pregnant.
If you are experiencing irregular periods and you haven’t already, make sure to book up an appointment with your GP or gynaecologist so they can help you find the root cause of your unpredictable cycle.