Statistics on menstrual cycles
What causes menstrual irregularities?
Beware of hormonal imbalances
An imbalance of female hormones is thought to cause irregularities in both the menstrual period and cycle. In general terms, the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, regulate the menstrual cycle. However the actual mechanisms of hormone secretion in our body are complex. They involve the interactions of the three organs: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and ovaries. A problem in any one of these will immediately affect menstruation.
Irregular menstruation as a reflection of your mental state
Menstruation is often said to be a barometer of stress. Psychological stresses often affect hormone secretion, causing irregularities in menstruation. In today's society, we might even say that stress is the main cause of menstrual irregularities. Any intense stress, even if only brief, can influence menstrual cycles.
If hormonal imbalances are left untreated, they can result in difficulties conceiving in the future or in experiencing symptoms of menopause (such as stiff shoulders, headaches, skin troubles, and hot flashes) early. They can also cause early menopause, resulting in an increased risk of osteoporosis and lifestyle diseases. So it would be a good idea to reduce your level of stress without delay and regulate your menstrual cycle. You should consult a gynecologist or a specialist in psychosomatic medicine if your condition does not change.
Changes to your mind and body
Female hormone levels are at their lowest during menstruation. Women tend to experience unpleasant symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, backache, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, headaches, anemia, fatigue, swelling and skin trouble during menstruation. Severe symptoms may indicate an illness.
The proliferative phase through to ovulation
Estrogen levels rise, and a woman feels at her best at this time. Her skin clears, her hair shines, she is relaxed and she finds it easier to think positively. It is also easier to get good results with dieting, so this is the best time to take on new challenges.
The secretory phase (before menstruation)
Progesterone levels rise, and many women experience both emotional and physical imbalances during this period. Women often experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome such as swelling or tenderness in the breasts, headaches, shoulder stiffness, backache, constipation, diarrhea, skin trouble, irritability, depression, insomnia, drowsiness and overeating.
Types of menstrual irregularities
A normal menstrual cycle lasts between 25 and 38 days. Although it varies for each person, periods occurring at intervals longer than 39 days are considered to be infrequent menstruation, or oligomenorrhea. This can be caused by ovaries functioning below par, hindering hormone secretion.
Even with oligomenorrhea, it is possible to get pregnant and give birth as long as ovulation still occurs. However, there are many cases where ovulation also stops. This is not a problem if a regular cycle resumes after a couple of months, but if you continue to have infrequent periods, you may want to check your hormone balance and the occurrence of ovulation.
Polymenorrhea is when women have frequent menstrual cycles less than 24 days apart. This can be caused by a reduced functioning of the ovaries or by a stress-induced hormone imbalance.
In some cases, polymenorrhea is caused by a luteal phase defect, where the time between ovulation and the period is reduced due to progesterone levels being too low. The uterine lining will not thicken enough if progesterone levels are low, making it difficult to conceive or making miscarriage likely should conception occur. If you are trying to conceive, please see a gynecologist without delay and have your hormone levels checked.
Prolonged and heavy menstruation (menorrhagia)
Prolonged menstruation, or menorrhagia, is when a period lasts longer than 8 days. This may be caused by hormone imbalances or uterine diseases.
One reason for this may be anovulatory cycles caused by problems with organs, such as the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries, which are involved in the processes of secreting female hormones, or by a defective luteal phase caused by low progesterone levels.
You must be careful if symptoms involve excessive menstrual flow accompanied by heavy bleeding, liver-like clots, and heavy menstrual pains, as they may be caused by such diseases as uterine fibroids, adenomyometritis, endometritis, uterine cancer, or polyps.
Scanty and too short menstruation (hypomenorrhea)
Extremely light menstrual flow that only leaves behind a few spots of blood on sanitary pads is considered scanty menstruation, and menstruation that ends in just a day or two is considered too short (also referred to as hypomenorrhea). Such conditions can be caused by insufficient thickening of the uterine lining due to low levels of female hormones, maldevelopment of the uterus itself, or thyroid dysfunction. In many cases, such periods are anovulatory cycles where ovulation is absent (-> See "Basal body temperature"), which can make conception difficult if the condition remains untreated for a long time. Hormone therapy may be required in some cases.
Premenopausal menstrual irregularities
Ovaries start to decline gradually from around the time women turn 35. Such symptoms as irregular menstruation or scanty menstrual flow during the premenopausal period (for women in their late 30s and 40s) may indicate for some women that they are already going through changes on their way towards menopause.
Women typically experience menopause around the age of 50. The aging process starts early when such premenopausal symptoms appear ahead of time. As such, hormone therapy may be required to raise the level of female hormones in the body. (Early menopause)
Bring your basal body temperature chart with you when you see a gynecologist
Irregular menstruation can have a variety of causes and symptoms. If you are experiencing of any of the symptoms mentioned above, and they do not go away, you should consult a gynecologist.
Take your basal body temperature chart with you when you go to see a gynecologist about menstrual irregularities. A specialist will be able to make an educated guess about which of your hormones are lacking during which phase of your menstrual cycle by taking a look at fluctuations in your basal body temperature.
If you notice any symptoms of irregular menstruation. . .
It is important to review your lifestyle if you notice any irregularities in your menstrual cycle. Make sure you get enough sleep and maintain a balanced diet with three meals a day rather than allowing yourself to suddenly lose weight due to excessive dieting. It is also important to learn to successfully manage stress, which is the commonest cause of irregular menstruation. You could, for example, take up some form of regular exercise such as yoga, or take up aromatherapy, meditation, or tai chi, any of which can help to regulate your autonomic nerves. Pursue a lifestyle that treats your body well.