Irregular menstruation is a lot more common than you might think. It affects around 14 percent of all women between 19 and 54 years of age.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is highly complex and can be difficult to understand. As a result, when your period is irregular, there may be a variety of factors causing it. Whether or not you are planning to become pregnant, it’s important to get a better perspective of this issue.
What Is Irregular Menstruation?
On average, a woman’s menstruation can span from four to seven days. The entire cycle can last anywhere from a minimum of 21 to a maximum of 35 days, although the average cycle lasts 28 days. There are certain issues that may affect your menstrual cycle and make it irregular. They include the following:
- Periods happening fewer than 21 or more than 35 days apart
- Missing three or more consecutive periods
- Much heavier or lighter menstrual flow than normal
- Periods lasting longer than seven days
- Periods that result in severe pain, nausea or vomiting
- Bleeding or spotting between periods after sex or after reaching menopause
What Are the Different Types of Abnormal Menstruation?
Generally speaking, there are different types of irregular menstruation. They include the following:
- Amenorrhea: This is a condition that causes your period to stop for a period of 90 days or longer. Amenorrhea occurs normally when a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding or experiencing perimenopause, which is the period leading up to menopause that occurs between the ages of 45 to 55. Teen girls who have not yet started their period by around age 15 after their breasts have developed are also considered to have this condition.
- Oligomenorrhea: This condition is characterized by periods that only happen occasionally.
- Dysmenorrhea: This is a condition characterized by particularly painful menstrual cramps when you have your period. While most women experience cramps during this time, it’s extremely bad for women with dysmenorrhea.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding: This condition involves various scenarios, including heavier than normal menstrual flow, periods lasting longer than seven days or bleeding or spotting between periods, after sex or after menopause.
What Causes Variations in Periods?
Many factors can lead to irregular menstruation, such as simple stress or even a serious medical condition. A few of the most common causes include the following:
- Lifestyle factors and stress: Lifestyle factors such as smoking, dieting, heavy exercising, illness or even travel can lead to an irregular period. Stress can also affect your period.
- Birth control pills: The pill has a combination of the hormones progestin and estrogen. Some only have progestin, but both options prevent ovulation. If you abruptly go on the pill or off it, your period can be affected. In some cases, you can experience irregular or missed periods for as long as six months when you continuously go on and off birth control pills. You can also experience bleeding between periods when you take pills containing progestin only.
- Uterine polyps or fibroids: Polyps are small growths in the lining of the uterus that are benign but may cause pain and heavy bleeding during your period. Fibroids are similar but are found on the wall of the uterus and can range in size from tiny to grapefruit-sized. They, too, can lead to heavy bleeding and pain during your period.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a medical condition that can cause irregular menstruation. The endometrial tissue can grow outside of the uterus and cause pain and bleeding before and during your period and pain during sex.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is a bacterial infection that can lead to a variety of problems, including discharge with strong odor, fever, pain, irregular periods, miscarriage, diarrhea or vomiting. It can also result in irregular periods.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome: Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a medical condition that causes the ovaries to produce too much of the male hormone androgen. Women with the condition often have cysts on their ovaries that can lead to irregular menstruation and infertility issues.
- Premature ovarian insufficiency: With this condition, women younger than 40 have malfunctioning ovaries. It causes menstruation to stop as it would in menopause. Women who receive cancer treatments or those with a family history are prone to developing the condition.
If you have a problem with irregular menstruation, talk to your OB/GYN to discuss your treatment options.