All women are different, and so are their periods. Most menstrual cycles happen every 28 days, and some women get their periods like clockwork while others’ are less predictable. It can be worrisome to experience an irregular period, but what makes it irregular? “Irregular irregularity” is usually nothing to worry about, but “regular irregularity” might indicate a more serious condition.
Your menstrual cycle can say a lot about your overall health and well-being. This guide on irregular periods will walk you through what they are, their causes, if you should be concerned, and several science-backed ways to treat them holistically.
What Is the Difference Between Regular and Irregular Periods?
When a woman gets her period, she is experiencing a menstrual cycle, which is a monthly series of changes her body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month the ovaries release an egg (known as ovulation), and hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If the egg isn’t fertilized during ovulation, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina, which is known as a menstrual period.
The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next one. On average, a woman gets her period every 21-35 days, and it usually lasts two to seven days. Most girls get their first period (known as menarche) between 10 and 15.
You might be experiencing irregular periods if:
- The time between each period keeps shifting (especially if it’s less than 21 days or greater than 38).
- You lose more or less blood than usual.
- The number of days your period lasts changes (especially if it’s eight days or longer).
Many things can cause irregular periods, from hormonal and lifestyle factors to medical devices.
Causes of Irregular Periods
There are several common factors that affect the rhythm of our monthly cycles, from changes in hormone levels to lifestyle. Most of them have simple explanations, but occasionally there is cause for concern. Causes of irregular periods may include:
- Age. Menstruation might be irregular and longer during the first few years because of changes in the body’s hormone levels – estrogen and progesterone. Irregular periods become more common again as menopause approaches.
- Exercise, diet, and weight changes. Any extreme changes to your workout schedule or diet can cause irregularity. If you lose a lot of weight, you may lose your period altogether.
- Stress. As with every affliction, stress can make your periods worse and irregular.
- Birth control. Changing birth control pills can disrupt your cycle.
- Having an Intrauterine Device (IUD).
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding. A missed period is a common first sign of pregnancy, and breastfeeding tends to delay the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- Thickening of or polyps on the uterine lining.
- Uterine fibroids.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Severe scarring of the uterine lining (Asherman syndrome).
Experiencing an irregular period doesn’t have to be a cause for concern. It is good to speak to a professional if they are consistently irregular.
Should I Be Worried About Irregular Periods?
All women are different and experience their periods differently. An irregular period here and there is no cause for concern most of the time. You should consult your healthcare provider if:
- Your periods stop for more than 90 days, and you aren’t pregnant
- Your periods suddenly become erratic after being regular
- You bleed for longer than seven days
- You bleed more heavily than usual, soaking through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
- Your periods are less than 21 days and more than 35 days apart consistently
- You bleed or spot between periods
- You experience severe pain on your period
- You develop a fever or feel sick after using a tampon
- You develop extra hair growth on the face, chin, chest, or abdomen
If you experience these symptoms, you should get evaluated by your practitioner to rule out more serious causes of irregular periods such as:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- Uterine fibroids
- Precancerous and cancerous uterus conditions
- Thyroid diseases
- Certain conditions that affect the liver and kidneys
- Blood coagulation disorders
Many of these conditions can lead to long-term fertility issues and pregnancy complications if left untreated. If you’re experiencing frequently irregular periods with concerning symptoms, you should be checked out by your doctor.
Science-Backed Natural Remedies for Regulating Irregular Periods (H2)
Treatment for irregular periods depends on what’s causing them. If serious conditions have been ruled out, there are several natural ways to get a fluctuating period back on track. Here are six science-based holistic treatments for regulating irregular periods.
A study found that 35-40 minutes of yoga five days a week for six months lowered hormone levels related to irregular menstruation. Yoga has been shown to reduce period pain. It also improves emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression and the quality of life for women experiencing dysmenorrhea (extreme pain before and during a period).
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Women who are overweight are more likely to experience irregular periods because of the impact that fat cells have on hormones and insulin. Additionally, women who lose a lot of weight quickly can experience irregularity and even loss of their periods.
Exercise has many health benefits for your menstrual cycle, including helping you maintain a healthy weight and as part of treatment for PCOS. A recent clinical trial also showed that it can treat primary dysmenorrhea.
Evaluate Your Diet
Not getting the right mix of nutrients stresses the body’s hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, which regulate your body’s hormone balance and affect your periods. Dietary actions to consider include skipping low-carb and high fiber diets, making sure you get enough healthy fats and folate, and enjoying pineapples and papayas.
Dietary supplements may promote regular periods by supporting your hormone levels and addressing nutritional deficiencies. You should always consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements; those such as inositol, cinnamon, turmeric, evening primrose oil, and castor oil may help.
Consider Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements can help regulate your periods by lowering prolactin and raising progesterone to keep them in a healthy balance. Again, always consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements. Herbal supplements such as black cohosh, chasteberry, and mugwort help regulate your menstrual cycle.
With the addition of natural treatments such as these, you may be able to get an irregular period back on track. Your periods reflect the overall health of your system. Holistically treating the cause is an act of love for you and your body.
Contact a Holistic Physician With Questions About Irregular Periods
Irregular periods aren’t always a cause for concern, but they can affect a woman’s quality of life in various, sometimes painful ways. The faster you seek guidance, the better your chances of reducing the effects on your health and body.
Dr. Karen Threlkel can help if you are experiencing irregular periods. Dr. Threlkel is a naturopathic doctor whose focus is on a natural, holistic approach to your overall health. Call her office today to set up a virtual or in-office appointment.