Each month it is not uncommon to experience variation in your period symptoms – some may be more painful than others and some may be lighter than others too. It’s also quite common for a period to fall a couple of days earlier or later than it did the previous month but if this is the case, at what stage is a period considered irregular?
Well, if you have a long cycle this is considered irregular as it takes more time for your period to come around each month. A long cycle can be as much as 42 days (or more) whereas a regular flow comes every 28 days or so. Also, just because it takes 42 days for your period to come round one month, it doesn’t necessarily mean this time frame will be the same next time around!
In this instance it would be easy to mistake a longer or irregular cycle for a missed period so it’s important to let a little time pass before worrying that your period has stopped completely. What’s more, bear in mind that irregular periods are often accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- A particularly light or excessively heavy flow
- The period is either shorter than two days or longer than 5
My advice: From hormone imbalances to age, there are a few things that can cause irregular periods so if you are concerned about this issue it’s best to get checked out by your doctor.
There are two important hormones involved in the menstrual cycle and that is progesterone and oestrogen. Progesterone prepares the womb for a fertilised egg but if you don’t conceive it is also responsible for cramp. Oestrogen on the other hand, prompts the release of an egg in the first place. In order for the menstrual cycle to function as normal these hormones exist in a delicate balance.
However, being overweight or obese can disrupt this delicate balance because oestrogen is stored in fat cells meaning you’ll end up with too much of this hormone. This can result in irregular periods and may even mean you miss periods altogether.
My advice: There is no point in addressing the hormone imbalance if you don’t address the issue of your weight as otherwise you are only covering up an issue rather than solving it completely. So, exercise more (walking is great!), eat lots of fresh produce and if you need more advice on losing weight safely visit your GP who I’m sure will be happy to help!
Rapid weight loss
Embarking on the latest fad diet or losing a lot of weight in a very short period of time through other methods is another sure way to upset your period cycle.
In contrast to weight gain, weight loss can reduce our stores of oestrogen resulting in low mood and light, infrequent periods. That’s not all though, if oestrogen levels are extremely low it can also cause periods to stop altogether.
My advice: To avoid sudden and considerable weight loss, rather than dieting to the extreme make sensible choices about what you are eating. Try swapping any processed meals and snacks for homemade and fresh varieties, keep exercise to a moderate level and, if necessary, once again seek advice from a medical professional.
Be it work worries, financial concerns or personal troubles, stress is an unfortunate feature in many lives. It can affect our digestion, sleep, mood, as well as many other areas of our health including menstruation.
The problem is that stress takes attention away from all these non-essential bodily processes meaning they function less effectively. This stress response stems from times long ago when a life-threatening situation such as an animal attack required the body to focus on immediate survival rather than anything else – reproduction wasn’t exactly top of mind at this time! Even though the source of stress has changed a little since this time – we aren’t likely to come across a sabre-toothed tiger these days – our response to stress is the same.
My advice: If you are feeling stressed I’d recommend you visit our Stress Hub where you will find a wealth of information and advice on the topic.
Alongside this it can also help to talk to those around you about your worries, whilst relaxing stretches may also relieve some tension.
For mild stress and anxiety you could also turn to herbal remedies - our Stress Relief Daytime drops contain a mix of Valerian and Hops to ease that troubled feeling.
Although gentle exercise can actually help to ease period cramps, embarking on a harsh workout regime has the potential to disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Extreme exercise acts as a stressor so it can disrupt your flow in the same way that money worries or a personal problem would. Also, losing a lot of weight through extreme exercise will, as I’ve just discussed, upset the delicate balance of hormones in the body which can cause periods to stop.
My advice: Moderation is key – remember, you don’t have to train for a marathon to get your stint of exercise! Instead, why not embark on a gentler regime with a variety of exercises such as cycling, stretching and walking? Also, over on our Get Active Hub we have a range of tips that will help encourage strength, endurance, flexibility and balance without putting your body under too much strain.
The contraceptive pill is a popular and effective method of contraception but it may cause you to miss periods, or it may stop them altogether.
The pill is not the only form of contraception that can cause these problems though, as the progesterone-only pill, the contraceptive injection and the intrauterine system (IUS) all have similar effects.
My advice: Your periods should return to normal when you stop using these forms of contraception so I wouldn’t get too concerned about it. Continue taking the medication unless advised otherwise by your doctor.
Finally, oestrogen levels decrease in the approach to menopause and this causes ovulation to become less regular before the periods stop altogether.
The menopause usually occurs around the age of 45 but it’s not unheard of for it to begin as late as 60 too! Alongside more irregular periods, the menopause usually involves other symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes.
My advice: Our Menopause Expert Eileen covers everything menopause-related in her hub. Here you’ll find blogs and videos on the topic, as well as tips to help deal with it more effectively.
For a little additional help during the menopause you could also try our Menopause Support Tablets. These are made from Soy Isoflavones which can help to relieve symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats.