The menstrual cycle isn’t always like a hand on the clock. While many women get their periods right on time i.e. every 28 days, other’s cycles may not be predictable. If the menstrual cycle is between 21- 35 days it is considered normal. Missed, early or delayed periods are signs of an irregular cycle. Also, if the number of days between the start and the end of a period is significantly different each month, it is called an irregular cycle.
In many cases, the main cause of irregular periods is related to a condition, “anovulation”. It is a condition in which the ovary is unable to release oocyte (egg cell) and fails to induce ovulation. No ovulation may delay the release of progesterone causing menstruation.
Other than this, the following circumstances can trigger irregular menstruation.
1. Stress: Stress and anxiety can take a toll on our health. Chronic stress may cause havoc and lead to hormonal imbalance. As the stress level rises in the body, there is a chance that the menstrual period will stop. This condition is also known as secondary amenorrhea.
2. Diet: We are what we eat! A nutritious diet plays a huge role in our health and general well-being. A healthy diet must include an appropriate amount of iron, calcium, protein, vitamin E and fiber. If not, then the body fails to suppress LH (Luteinizing Hormone) that triggers ovulation and produces estrogen and progesterone. An unhealthy diet may interfere with gonadal steroid production and disturb the menstrual cycle.
3. Excess exercise: The body perceives excess exercise as a stressor. Low body fat along with vigorous exercise may hamper the regularity of the monthly cycle as it affects the elevation of the metabolism. Metabolism is responsible for the maintenance of the chemical reactions in the body.
4. Excess consumption of medicines: Excess amount of medicine consumption (both prescribed and non-prescribed) may affect the menstrual cycle. Medicine contains chemicals which are considered as endocrine disruptors and affect the female reproductive health.
5. PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal imbalance disorder resulting in large ovaries and cysts. In this, ovaries produce an excess amount of testosterone which blocks ovulation. No ovulation may delay the release of progesterone causing menstruation. If one has an irregular menstrual cycle for a long time, they may be suffering from PCOS.
6. Unbalanced sleep cycle: Many may not know, but even sleep plays a huge role in the maintenance of the menstrual cycle. Inadequate sleep affects the melatonin levels of the body. Melatonin plays a role in the regulation of the menstruation cycle. Irregular sleep may also affect the hormonal balance of the body.
7. Thyroid: The thyroid gland helps control the menstrual cycle. Excess or a low amount of thyroid hormone can make your periods lighter, heavier or irregular. People who are suffering from thyroid disease may experience an irregular cycle. PeriodS may even stop completely for certain time. This condition is also known as amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).
Occasional fluctuations in menstrual flow, duration and number of days aren’t usually a cause of concern. One must keep track of the cycle to notice the irregularity frequency and accordingly take measures. Treatment for this will highly depend on the cause of irregularity. Nevertheless, one can adopt a healthy diet, practice yoga and embrace healthy lifestyle choices to kickstart the process of period regulations.