Periods can sometimes be a real pain. They can make you feel sick. They can give you a headache. They can make your stomach ache. Yes, periods can be a real pain, and things can be even worse if they decide to become irregular. Irregular periods are one of the most common menstrual complaints around. Usually, irregular periods are nothing to worry about, but on occasion, they can signal health complications.
Irregular periods aren’t unusual they affect about 30% of women in their reproductive years. An irregular period is any type of bleeding that is abnormal when compared to your usual menstrual cycle. This can include a late period, an early period or bleeding between periods. It can also appear as particularly heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) or scanty bleeding. Many women also experience irregular periods in the form of a missed period, continuous periods, or periods that occur twice in one cycle.
Causes of Irregular Periods
Irregular menstrual periods are usually the result of hormonal signals that have been thrown out of sync. In order to produce a period, your body makes hormones, like estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are kept in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries inside your body. In order to trigger ovulation and menstruation, these parts of the body need to send signals to one another. Sometimes, these signals get crossed or skipped, causing irregular periods.
Irregular Periods and Getting Pregnant
Irregular periods can be troublesome when trying to get pregnant. Irregular or abnormal ovulation and menstruation accounts for 30% to 40% of all cases of infertility. Irregularity, per se, is not necessarily a problem if you learn how to chart your fertility signs, especially cervical fluid, to determine when you are approaching your short window of fertility. But, if cycles are very long, it means by definition, that ovulation is not occurring as often as it would with a typical monthly cycle, a condition known clinically as anovulation.
There are numerous factors that determine how fertile a woman is, such as her age, whether and how often she ovulates, whether her cervical fluid is wet enough to sustain sperm, whether her fallopian tubes are open, etc. But the most important of all is the release of the egg itself. If you don’t release an egg, meaning you don’t ovulate, you don’t have as many opportunities to get pregnant.
Treatment for Irregular Periods
Lifestyle changes are the first level of treatment available to women wishing to ease the effects of irregular periods. While these changes are usually cost-free and virtually risk-free, they do require the greatest amount of self-discipline.
Believe it or not, daily behaviors can have a significant impact a woman’s experience of problematic periods. For example, leading a more sedentary lifestyle or consuming too much caffeine or alcohol can exacerbate the experience of irregular periods. Increased stress due to work pressure or family obligations can also increase the severity of irregular periods.
Women with irregular periods are often prescribed fertility drugs like Clomid to increase the number of ovulation periods. But if you would rather try a more natural approach, you might want to see a naturopathic doctor first to see if they can prescribe a less harsh treatment.
Although anovulation can usually be treated with fertility drugs, it is important to rule out other conditions that could interfere with ovulation, such as liver disease, diabetes, problems with the ovaries, and abnormalities of the adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid glands, which produce important hormones.