Irregular menstrual cycles are complex issues because of the many contributing factors like hormones, several other bodily systems, and lifestyle. According to the Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism Journal, missing periods frequently is common in 5 percent of the adult women population. However, irregular periods happen intermittently during the reproductive years.
The menstrual period functions like a monthly alarm clock. Its ring is the confirmation that you are not conceiving. Unless your efforts are geared towards getting pregnant, the period carries with it good news with physical discomforts like bloating, cramps, and back pain. However, there are instances when the ring does not come and there is no way that pregnancy is possible.
The fact is, missing a period does not solely mean pregnancy. There are other reasons that this can happen, such as:
Stress increases both sugar and cortisol levels within the system; thereby disrupting the ovulation. Cortisol, the stress hormone, hinders the production of progesterone. Since the body uses progesterone to fight the increasing levels of cortisol and respond better to stress, eventually, it will mess-up the cycle and make conception extremely difficult. Remember the menstrual cycle, a hormonal cycle, is a product of chains of reactions. When one stage misses a part, the following stages are bound to receive incorrect triggers.
Menstrual cycles are often disrupted by being overweight. While the ovaries are producing estrogen, body fat also produces them. With high body fat content, estrogen production is also multiplied many times. Both progesterone and estrogen work together for a healthy menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels normally increase during the first few days of the cycle until a threshold is reached to start ovulation. When a woman has high estrogen level all throughout the cycle, the body will lose its function of triggering ovulation. Irregular ovulation will also mean unpredictable and sporadic menstruation.
Illness also affects ovulation. During an infection, missed periods are likely because of the stress it brings to the body. However, a missed period may also be a sign of illness. A Sexually Transmitted Disease, for instance, is presented by an irregular period. Health experts explained that when someone is diagnosed with chlamydia, spotting or bleeding may happen because of an inflamed cervix. More serious problems like fibroids, a thyroid disorder, polyps, or endocrine-related conditions may also be presented by a missed period. In the U.S., 7% of women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is manifested by either a missed period or extremely heavy flow. Its other signs are presence of unusual hair growth, excessive weight gain, acne, and even insulin resistance.
A study involving 119,000 women revealed that women who work during the evenings are at 33 percent higher risk of experiencing menstrual problems. The researchers also added that when work schedules fluctuate, problematic periods are more likely. Shifts in work schedules disrupt the circadian rhythm, which controls biological functions; the menstrual cycle included.
Discouraging exercise to avoid irregular periods is not necessary. In fact, exercise should be promoted as a normal part of a healthy lifestyle for better health and well-being. At least half an hour of moderate exercise or 20 minutes of rigid physical activity every day is what’s encouraged. It means that an hour of cardiovascular exercise daily is uncalled for. In fact, an aerobic activity that lasts an hour can result to more physical harm than health benefits. When the body goes through energy shortage, both the hormonal and metabolic functioning are disrupted. Many professional athletes suffer from irregular menstruation also because there are not enough calories within the system. Slowing down will eventually get the menstrual cycle get back on track.
When a baby is born, the natural nutrients that are necessary for the feedings are also made enough. Doctors encourage breastfeeding because it is the healthiest and safest forms of providing nutrition for the newborns. The primary breast milk production hormone is prolactin. The pituitary gland, which is found in the brain, produces them. However, prolactin prevents menstruation, which is why most breastfeeding mothers experience light to no periods. As the baby starts consuming solid foods, the brain will sense the feeding changes and prolactin production is lessened. When the prolactin levels are decreased, the cycle returns to its normal functioning.
When a menstrual period suddenly changes, the most probable cause is imbalanced hormones in the system, especially progesterone and estrogen. PCOS is a condition characterized by imbalanced female sex hormones. A doctor can perform a blood test for hormone levels evaluation, especially if there are suspected cysts on the ovaries. When PCOS is diagnosed, birth control is usually recommended to better regulate the periods.
Medications that are hormonal in nature such as thyroid medications, antipsychotics, or steroids influence menstrual periods. However, the most common is the birth control options. The hormonal contraceptives like the patches and pills work through stopping ovulation. The monthly bleeding while on these hormonal methods is the withdrawal bleeding that is primarily caused by crashing hormones. Other birth control options like Mirena IUD or Depo Provera thins the uterine lining to a degree where no lining can be shed-off already.
When thyroid gland, the body part that is responsible for metabolism, does not properly function, irregular menstrual changes are more likely to occur. The case of overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism can make less frequent and lighter periods with additional symptoms of weight loss, increased sweating, rapid heartbeat, and trouble sleeping. There are instances when an underperforming thyroid gland causes heavier but less frequent flows. With this case, weight gain, dry skin, fatigue, and hair loss are also observed.
A women’s transition to menopause is preceded by perimenopause. It can last from months to a decade characterized primarily by erratic ovarian functions and hormonal fluctuations. Often, it brings about changes like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, night sweats, and heavy bleeding. Memory changes, vaginal changes, urinary changes, and sexual satisfaction changes are also common symptoms.
A moderate and regular pain-free period every month is an indication of well-balanced hormones and well-functioning reproductive system. Missed periods, irregular periods, or extremely painful PMS symptoms on the other hand are signs of chaotic hormonal activities. Whether it is because of a health condition, a poor diet, chronic stress levels, low body weight, or too much exercise, missed periods must not be ignored. The late or missing period is the body signaling that you are at constant high stress levels or are experiencing more complex health issues.