It’s a rare woman who has consistent periods from her first menses through perimenopause. Irregular periods will happen from time to time as the result of hormonal or dietary changes, stress, contraception changes, or other physical conditions. In most cases, it’s a good idea to visit your OB/GYN as soon as you identify your period is irregular. While it isn’t always cause for worry, the sooner a potential condition is identified and treated, the healthier your reproductive system will be.
What is a regular period?
A full menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period through the first day of your next period. Most women bleed for about three to seven days, every 30 days or so. Some women have 24-day cycles while other cycles are longer than 30 days. This is completely normal.
If you’re concerned your period is irregular, begin tracking it on a calendar so you can discuss the specifics with your OB/GYN when you make an appointment.
What are irregular periods? Should I visit my OB/GYN?
It is perfectly normal to miss one or two periods a year, or even more. However, the important thing is to know your own body and menstrual cycle, and visit your OB/GYN when you experience a period that is irregular for you. Common concerns for women who visit our clinic are:
- Heavier than normal flow
- Light spotting
- A period that seems to have more heavy clotting than normal
- Periods that last only a day or two
- Periods that last longer than a week
In most cases, these are all due to minor hormonal imbalances that will regulate themselves independently. In other words, they are not cause for concern. That being said, if your instincts tell you something is wrong, you should always make an appointment with us to discuss your concerns so we can see if there is an underlying problem.
Some of the most common causes for irregular periods include:
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Extreme exercise or sports training
- Drug use
- Increased stress
- Using a hormone-based contraceptive (in which case we can discuss other options)
- Excessive alcohol consumption (your liver is a key player in processing estrogen and progesterone)
- Recent birth, miscarriage, or D&C
- Poor nutrition (diets high in carbohydrates can effect the menstrual cycle)
In other cases, there can be physiological conditions that cause irregular periods, and these should be identified and/or treated by your OB/GYN. These include:
Pregnancy. If you are usually very regular, and are sexually active, it is a good idea to come in and be tested for pregnancy. Even if you use birth control, there is still a chance you could be pregnant and the sooner you know, the better.
Hormone imbalances. All women experience hormonal fluctuations. These do not require treatment. However, if hormone imbalances are so severe they begin to interfere with normal life or your menstrual cycle, your OB/GYN can talk to you about conventional and alternative treatments.
Endometriosis. This condition is caused when the uterine lining, which is shed during your period, grows outside the uterus. It can cause severe cramping and discomfort, heavy bleeding, and infertility.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. Often referred to as PCOS, this is fairly common and occurs when benign cysts form in the ovaries, which interferes with the menstrual cycle.
How will my OB/GYN treat my irregular period?
Your OB/GYN will discuss your options with you. These may include dietary and lifestyle changes, oral contraceptives, or surgery, depending on the nature of the irregularities. If the irregularity isn’t a medical issue, or causing you discomfort, you may not require treatment at all!
Concerned about your irregular periods? Contact Overlake OB/GYN to make an appointment. We look forward to facilitating your well being.