A normal menstrual cycle is when the duration between two cycles is between 21 to 35 days. If the menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than that, it is said to be irregular. Other indicators or symptoms that accompany irregular periods are:

  • A persistent or alarming change in the existing menstrual cycle
  • Period bleeding that goes on for more than 8 days
  • Abnormal spotting
  • Too heavy or too light bleeding
  • Severe cramps
  • Extreme mood swings

Irregular periods are more common than you think. Many women experience irregular periods at some point in their lives, mostly after menarche (first period) or 3-10 years before menopause (last period).

Irregular Periods Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Symptoms of irregular periods

On average, women usually get 11 to 13 menstrual cycles every year, and the flow usually occurs for 5 to 7 days. A cycle that is significantly different from that can be deemed as irregular. Symptoms of irregular periods include:

  • Missed periods
  • Early or late periods- a period cycle that is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days
  • Abnormal bleeding- a duration that is less than 5 days or more than 8 days

These are often accompanied with other symptoms such as

  • Headaches
  • Severe menstrual cramps
  • Blood clots that are larger than a 10-rupee coin (2.5 cm in diameter)
  • Tender or sore breasts
  • Fluid retention

Causes for irregular periods

Perimenopause: Women who are close to menopause- those who fall in the age bracket of 45 to 55 years- mostly experience abnormal hormone secretion. This hormonal imbalance leads to a delay in periods.

Stress and anxiety: Chronic stress or even short-term anxiety can cause a hormone imbalance, causing missed and irregular periods.

Extreme exercise: Exercising too much can also affect the timing of a menstrual cycle and, in some cases, stop it.

Eating disorders in teenagers, extreme dieting or weight loss: Being underweight, whether it is from extreme exercise, dieting, an eating disorder or illness, can also affect your menstrual cycle.

Contraception: A change in contraception methods can be another reason for late periods. Certain contraceptive methods alter the hormonal secretion in the body, causing an irregularity in periods. Taking pills to delay periods can also cause irregular periods and other severe side effects.

Treatment for irregular periods

Having irregular periods may be common but are still a matter of concern. Irregularity due to puberty, perimenopause, or contraception do not typically require treatment.

You will have to visit a doctor if:

  • The irregularity is persistent and has no apparent cause
  • It could be related to a medication or health condition
  • Irregular periods occur alongside other symptoms
  • Heavy bleeding which affects overall health
  • The person wants to get pregnant

Consulting a gynaecologist will help you treat the problems with periods and keep you safe from any further complications.

Some terminologies:

  • ‘Amenorrhea’ is a condition in which a woman’s periods have stopped completely for 90 days.
  • ‘Oligomenorrhea’ refers to periods that occur infrequently, one or two episodes in 90 days.
  • ‘Dysmenorrhea’ refers to painful periods and severe menstrual cramps.
  • ‘Menorrhagia’ is heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
  • ‘Bleeding’ refers to any bloody vaginal discharge that requires the use of protection such as pads or tampons

 ‘Spotting’ refers to any bloody vaginal discharge that is not large enough to require sanitary protection