Some women are lucky. Their menstrual period happens every 28 days like clockwork. Others, not so much. Irregular periods are experienced by most women at some point, but for some, it's a chronic problem.
Irregular periods can cause anxiety (am I pregnant?) and stress, and can also result in problems such as having to scramble for supplies when your period starts unexpectedly at, of course, the most inconvenient time (this is not always a coincidence). And, of course, they can affect your ability to get pregnant, especially your ability to calculate your most fertile period.
What Causes Irregular Periods?
Irregular periods are normal for girls going through puberty and for women in perimenopause. For most adult women, however, periods should be regular. Every woman's cycle length is different. 28 days is the average, but some women might have a shorter or longer normal cycle. When periods are irregular, the cycle length varies significantly. A day or so off is normal, but periods coming early or late may be a sign of a problem.
There are a number of things that can cause irregular periods:
- Changing contraceptive methods. Hormonal contraceptives that suppress ovulation cause you to have a shorter and lighter period when you take a break from taking them. If you change your brand of the pill, or switch between a pill and an implant, you might experience some irregularity and increased spotting while your body adjusts to the new hormone levels.
- Early pregnancy. If you are normally regular and then experience irregularity, take a pregnancy test. Yes, some women still have some menstrual bleeding when pregnant.
- Changes in your weight. If you go on a diet and lose a lot of weight quickly, this can cause irregular periods or even for your periods to disappear for a time. The same thing can happen if your weight increases. Eating disorders can thus also cause irregularity.
- Athletic training. It's very common for athletes to experience irregularity when in hard training. Many athletes stop menstruating during the most intense part of their training cycle right before a competition. Both this and irregularity due to weight change are due to your body thinking it is a time of hardship and thus not a good time to get pregnant.
- Certain medical conditions, including PCOS and thyroid issues. Anything that messes with your female hormones can mess with your cycles.
- Side effects of medications.
- Stress can bring on your period early or late.
- Travel. It's not a coincidence if you always seem to get your period when you go on vacation, whether you were due or not. Travel causes stress to your body. It's good stress, but it's still stress. Jetlag can also affect your cycles. Most women find that their period is late, but for a good number, traveling will just seem to bring it on no matter what.
- Breastfeeding. It's not uncommon to skip periods while breastfeeding and many women don't start cycling again until the child is weaned or even later. This may be a natural mechanism to spread out children and reduce the strain on your body. The more you breastfeed, the longer your period will take to come back.
It's a good idea to see your doctor if your periods suddenly become irregular and you are younger than 45, as it can indicate endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or even cancer. In the vast majority of cases, however, irregularity is either genetic (in which case you will know from other women in your family complaining about the same thing) or caused by a lifestyle issue listed above. (As a note, trans men who are going on testosterone often experience irregular periods before their periods eventually stop altogether).
So, What Can You Do About It?
Assuming you have been to your doctor and ruled out a serious problem or a side effect of a medication you are taking, the best thing to do about it depends on the cause.[caption id="attachment_25511" align="alignnone" width="1920"] There are many simple changes that will help make your cycles more regular.[/caption]
Irregular periods are normal during puberty and menopause, and in the case of the latter are more likely to be late or skip than arrive early. If you have changed contraceptives, give it time to settle down. (If it doesn't, you might want to talk to your doctor, especially if you are getting other side effects).
There are a number of things you can do about irregular periods:
- Oral contraceptives help many women, especially if the root cause of the irregularity is genetic hormonal issues, that is - if it runs in your family. You can even talk to your doctor about taking the pill back to back so as to avoid having periods altogether, and can keep taking it longer or stop sooner to avoid having a period at a particularly inconvenient time. However, oral contraceptives can also have unpleasant side effects for some women.
- Steady and even exercise. You should exercise regularly, but not with too much intensity. Athletes in training should talk to their coach or a sports medicine specialist about specific nutrition and when irregularity is a concern as opposed to an annoying side effect of training. Regular exercise can help with all kinds of other health issues too.
- Eat a healthy diet. Too much junk food can, in fact, mess up your cycles. Save it for an occasional treat and try to eat the best diet you can. Don't crash diet. Pineapple has been shown to potentially help with irregular menstruation.
- Stress management. Work on your stress management and consider talking to a counselor or therapist who can help you with improved techniques to manage stress. Yoga helps menstrual issues by lowering your stress and reducing depression and anxiety. It can also help a lot with cramps.
- Try seed cycling. It doesn't work for everyone, but involves eating specific seeds at specific times of the month. These different seeds help balance your levels of estrogen and progesterone in a way that can even out your cycles.
Supplements that can help with cycle irregularity and other menstrual symptoms:
- B vitamins, especially if you eat a plant-based diet. B6 and B12 are both important, and vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in the latter. Both vitamins help you replenish the blood lost during your period. B12 deficiency has been shown to cause irregular menstruation and a paused cycle.
- Magnesium. Magnesium helps ease menstrual cramps and reduce irritability as well as helping to stabilize your cycles. Make sure to stay within the recommended dosage.
- DHA omega fats. DHA omega fats exist in oily fish, nuts, seeds, and soy products. You can also get them in a supplement. DHA fats are essential for the production of prostaglandins, which regulate your hormones.
- N-actyle-cysteine (NAC). NAC is used by your body to create antioxidants. It's been shown to be helpful for women with PCOS. NAC helps support the health of your ovaries and may improve fertility.
- Probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the impact of PMS symptoms by mitigating the gut-slowing impact of progesterone. They also appear to help with fertility and by supporting your overall health will also help with your cycles.
Before turning to lifestyle changes, you do need to rule out pregnancy and talk to your doctor about medical issues that can cause irregular menstruation. However, once you have ruled those out, you can absolutely make simple changes that will help make your cycles more regular. Addressing your symptoms can improve your life and your chances of getting pregnant if you wish to do so.
One of the most important steps is to take the right supplements. Binto can help by sending you all of the supplements you need to support your menstrual cycle and keep it regular (along with other benefits) in an easy 30-day supply pouch. These pouches include vitamin B, probiotics, NAC, etc., and will help you easily get the supplements you need without forgetting any of them.