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Some women have periods that arrive like clockwork. They can be depended upon to show up about 28-30 days after the start of the last period. When women have an irregular menstrual cycle, it's often hard to predict exactly when menstruation will occur. Periods that are spaced in much shorter or longer intervals, and vary for each cycle, may be considered an irregular menstrual cycle. It’s not uncommon for women to occasionally have an irregular menstrual cycle, which may be brought on by things like high stress or illness. However, when an irregular menstrual cycle is the norm there may be other causes that can be addressed medically.
It’s probably a good idea to see a gynecologist or your family doctor if you have an unpredictable cycle, especially if you have been menstruating for a few years. An irregular menstrual cycle may be caused by a variety of factors, one of which is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In this condition the body produces androgens, which are male hormones, in much higher levels than normal. Symptoms of PCOS include thinning hair on the head with hair growth on the face, excessive acne, and weight gain or obesity. If you have suffered from symptoms like this in addition to having an irregular menstrual cycle, you should see a doctor. Standard treatment of PCOS may include a combination of medications.
Other causes of irregular menstruation can include low thyroid — an imbalance of hormones produced by the endocrine system. Malnutrition, especially those resulting from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, are also culprits of irregularity. Sometimes high performance athletes have their periods stop completely, which is called amenorrhea. Doctors may not always be able to determine a specific cause, but they are likely to investigate the matter with a full gynecological exam. An ultrasound of the pelvic region and blood tests may also be required.
In most cases, chronic irregular menstrual cycle is treated with birth control pills. Women trying to get pregnant will need to look to alternative solutions. Changing diet or lowering stress can sometimes help regulate the menstrual cycle. Additionally, women who are trying to get pregnant may use fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation.
Sexually active women should always view a single irregular menstrual cycle as a potential indicator of pregnancy. If you have been sexually active in the last couple of months, it’s important to take a pregnancy test to see if it has caused a very light period or a period’s failure to manifest. Some women, unaware of being pregnant early on, may get a period several weeks late that actually represents a miscarriage.
A woman should always keep track of her cycle so if an irregularity pops up, she can tell her doctor exactly when it happened. This can be crucial in diagnosing any issues.
Extreme stress can also cause irregular periods, for sure, so dealing with the stress may be a big factor in getting a woman's cycle regulated.
If birth control pills do not help regulate the cycle, or a woman has problems taking them, she should see her doctor and insist on getting to the bottom of the issue, especially if her periods have always been regular before. Sometimes, we have to strongly advocate for ourselves to get the best health care.
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