Irregular periods can be concerning, particularly if you’re used to an even and consistent menstrual cycle. Many women experience these variations at some point in their lives, and they aren’t always the sign of a problem.
The women’s wellness experts at Wandisan-Rosete Medical Group can help put your mind at ease. They explore the reasons for your irregularity by balancing your health history with a physical exam, including performing tests, if necessary.
Consider the following potential causes of period problems and add detailed tracking of your symptoms to help your caregiver get to the bottom of the issue.
Defining irregular periods
Once puberty subsides, women generally fall into a regular menstrual cycle of about 28 days, though a few days of variance each month is normal. A period becomes irregular when timing changes drastically, or when patterns of uterine bleeding change.
There are three general categories of periods that are irregular in timing:
- Amenorrhea: absence of periods for three cycles or more
- Menorrhagia: heavy menstrual bleeding lasting longer than a week
- Oligomenorrhea: menstrual periods spaced by 35 days or more
The average duration of menstrual bleeding is about five days. Each woman may have their own normal flow pattern through that timeframe.
Periods are also described as irregular when your flow pattern changes drastically. These bleeding abnormalities include:
- Menorrhagia, mentioned above
- Spotting or bleeding between usual menstrual periods
- Menstrual flow that’s much heavier than usual
- Menstrual flow that’s much lighter than usual
- Bleeding during or after intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
Changes to cramping or other sensations occurring around the menstrual period may also be substantial enough to be considered abnormal. This condition is called dysmenorrhea.
Common causes of irregular periods
Changes to your cycle can result from changes to your daily life: things like stress, travel, diet, weight gain or loss, illnesses, and other seemingly unrelated changes. You may also be affected by a medical condition or medication, including:
- Going on or off hormonal birth control
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Uterine fibroids and polyps
- Premature ovarian insufficiency
Sometimes, there are no observable reasons for irregular periods. Pregnancy, breast feeding, and perimenopause are all times of life where your periods may be irregular or stop altogether, but these are typically temporary conditions.
Tracking your symptoms
If you’re not already tracking your periods, begin a simple log to help pinpoint start and end dates of menstrual flow. Include a short description of each flow compared to what you expect, and comment on cramps, discomfort, or pain. Note any bleeding between periods.
Finally, list any changes in your life, including moods or behaviors and any other breaks from your normal routine. When you’re getting to the bottom of irregular periods, include seemingly unrelated changes along with more obvious factors to be thorough.
Contact Wandisan-Rosete Medical Group when irregular periods interfere with daily living. You can call the Tracy, California office directly at 209-226-4308, or you can book your appointment online now.