Normal menstrual cycle is between 24 to 35 days. Irregular periods occur in 30% of women in their reproductive age. An irregular period is any type of bleeding that is abnormal when compared to your usual menstrual cycle. This can include late period, an early period or bleeding between periods. It can also appear heavy bleeding or scanty bleeding. Many women experience in the form of missed periods, continuous periods or periods that can occur in one cycle.
Signs and symptoms
- A cycle length (from day 1 of your last menses to day 1 of the next menses) of less than 21 days or greater than 35 days.
- A missed period.
- Bleeding between periods.
- A period that lasts longer than 7 days.
- A heavy period (changing tampons or pads every hour for more than 4 hours).
Treatment depends on the cause.
- Reduce stress levels. Involve in meditation, relaxation.
- Get help for your eating disorder. If you are anorexic, bulimic, or if you suffer from other types of disordered eating, you must seek help. Not only will these eating disorders interrupt your menstrual cycle, but they can also severely affect your liver, bowel, throat, and heart functions.
- Do not over exercise.
- Hormonal contraceptives: Hormonal contraceptives are often used to regulate the periods. These contraceptives combine estrogen and progesterone and maintain body’s hormonal level at specific and balanced levels.
- Hormonal supplements may be able to regulate the periods.
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are often prescribed.
Home care: Keep a record of your menstrual cycle, including when menstruation begins and ends, how much flow you have (count the numbers of pads and tampons used, noting whether they are soaked) and any symptom you experience. Aspirin may prolong bleeding and hence it should be avoided.
When to contact a medical professional
Call your doctor if
- You have soaked through a pad or tampon every hour for 2-3 hours.
- Your bleeding has lasted longer than one week.
- You are pregnant.
- You have severe pain, especially if you have pain when not menstruating.
- Your periods have been heavy or prolonged for three or more cycles, compared to what is normal for you.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include
- Pap smear.
- Endometrial biopsy.
- Pelvic ultrasound.
- Lab tests such as thyroid function tests, complete blood count, pregnancy test and serum ferritin.
- Cut down caffeine and other stimulants.
- Exercise regularly to release your physical and emotional tension.
- Try some stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga.