Have you ever wondered what causes irregular periods, and why the length of cycles varies from woman to woman? There are many factors that have the impact to alter your period cycle. The length of a regular menstrual cycle is anywhere between 24 to 35 days. When a length of a cycle falls out of this range, it is considered to be irregular. Tracking your menstrual cycles is important as it can help you become familiar with your cycle, track abnormal symptoms and it can also indicate other medical problems you may be experiencing.
Factors that may influence your cycle:
- Puberty: It is common for girls who are going through puberty to have irregular cycles for the first few months or even up to the first couple of years after their first period.
- Perimenopause: During this time, your body is fluctuating in estrogen levels which can cause your menstrual cycles to either become longer or shorter.
- Pregnancy: When you are pregnant, abnormal bleeding or missed periods may occur.
- After giving birth: Women who are breastfeeding typically do not have a period until their baby is approximately 6 months old. This is because the hormone prolactin (which allows you to produce milk) prevents you from having your period.
- Stress: Stress can be a big factor when it comes to your menstrual cycle. Stress can control the hormones that regulate your cycle.
- Excessive exercise: It has been found that female athletes and women who participate in intensive physical activities often develop amenorrhea, which is the medical term for missed or stopped periods.
- Birth control: Birth control pills may cause spotting between periods and result in much lighter periods. An IUD can cause irregular bleeding for the first three months, but many times your periods can be lighter as time goes by.
- Extreme weight loss or weight gain: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by regularly exercising and eating a healthy diet can help reduce the chances of having irregular period cycles.
- Thyroid problems or other illnesses can also cause irregular cycles.
Tracking your menstruation cycle
To determine if your menstruation schedule is normal, you can track your cycles. You can manually track your cycles by counting from the first day of your last period to the day before you get your next one. If your period is within the 24-to-35-day range, you have a regular cycle. Keep track of this in a journal and repeat this for at least three months. There are also a variety of apps you can download on your phone or tablet which help track your cycles. It is useful for you to track how many pads you are using, if you are passing large clots, or if you are experiencing bleeding between periods.
When to call your healthcare provider
- If you miss your period for more than 3 months and you are not pregnant
- If you experience a period that lasts longer than 7 days
- If you need to replace your pad once every hour throughout the day
- If you experience spotting between periods
- If you experience other symptoms, such as severe pain, severe mood changes, unusual discharge, or develop a fever