Multiple Causes of Irregular Periods

An article in New York Magazine details some of the reasons women have late or irregular periods.  Your menstrual cycle depends on a precise sequence of hormones, and a disruption in this sequence can cause menstrual irregularity. We know that having a late or irregular period can be worrying, so we wanted to go over some of the causes and when you should call your doctor.

What Are the Causes of Irregular Periods?

According to the New York Magzine article, there are several reasons for period problems, and they vary from case to case. These problems can range from having a late period to heavy bleeding, to symptoms that you don’t normally have. Here are some of the causes of irregular and late periods:

  • Either a very early pregnancy where the embryo failed to implant in the uterine lining or a very early pregnancy where the embryo implanted and then failed shortly after
  • Eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa
  • A polyp or fibroid
  • An overactive thyroid, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Certain medicines, like those for anxiety or epilepsy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency, which is when your ovaries stop working before age 40
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Obesity or weight gain or loss
  • Hyperprolactinemia, which is high levels of prolactin, the hormone that causes breasts to grow during puberty and makes breastmilk, in the blood
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Drinking alcohol or smoking
  • Missing birth control pills

Additionally, Scott Sullivan, MD, FACOG, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says that having irregular periods may just be “biological variability.” Irregular periods are also common for teenage girls during the first few years’ of their period, and women who are transitioning into menopause.

When Should I See my Health Care Provider?

When it comes unusual bleeding, late, or irregular periods, here’s when you may want to call your doctor:

  • You haven’t started your period haven’t started by age 16, which is called primary amenorrhea
  • Your period happens more often than every 24 days
  • You have bleeding in between cycles, which is called polymenorrhea or metrorrhagia.
  • Your periods are further apart than 35 days, which is called oligomenorrhea.
  • You have irregular periods after having normal cycles
  • Your periods seem excessively heavy  (This can be hard to quantify, but if they seem excessive to you it is recommended that you see your provider)
  • Bleeding after menopause

What Are the Treatment Options?

Your treatment will depend on the cause of your late or irregular periods. Your provider might prescribe you hormonal birth control, such as the pill, shot, a vaginal ring, or an IUD. There are other treatments, like Novasure for endometrial ablation.

How We Can Help

Our health care providers at Northern Colorado Women’s Wellness are very experienced with a wide variety of gynecological problems, including irregular periods. If you’re concerned about irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, or other symptoms, please contact us. We’re happy to help answer all your questions and find the best option to make your periods more comfortable.

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