An irregular menstrual cycle does not necessarily indicate a medical condition. In most women, the menstrual cycle varies slightly. The average duration of the cycle is 24 to 38 days, and bleeding can last between two and seven days. Stress, hormonal contraceptives, menopause, and conditions such as endometriosis are common causes of an irregular cycle.
What is an irregular cycle?
Medical professionals consider a cycle to be irregular if it lasts longer than 32 days or shorter than 26 days. Deviations of up to three days from the 28-day rhythm are considered normal.
Larger deviations are not necessarily indicative of a medical condition. However, if very heavy periods and/or pain occur in addition to the irregular cycle, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause.
Common menstrual cycle disorders
There are various reasons for fluctuations in the cycle.
Common disorders include the following:
- Prolonged cycle length – A prolonged cycle is called oligomenorrhea. In this case, the cycle can last between 35 and 90 days. Prolonged cycles can occur at the onset of menopause or after discontinuing birth control pills. Insufficient follicle maturation can also be a reason, leading to delayed ovulation and menstruation.
- Shortened cycle duration – The duration of a so-called polymenorrhea can be less than 25 days. Hormonal imbalance is typically the cause of a shortened cycle.
- Absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) - When menstruation does not occur, pregnancy may be the cause. Other natural causes can include breastfeeding and menopause. However, stress, underweight or overweight, and extreme exercise can also cause the absence of menstruation.
What are the causes of an irregular cycle?
An irregular menstrual cycle does not necessarily have to be a symptom of a disease.
It can occur due to these causes:
- Puberty & menopause: Hormonal imbalances can occur during puberty and menopause, leading to cycle irregularities. During these periods, the hormone impulse responsible for the rupture of the follicle and the onset of menstruation may be absent. This can result in delayed ovulation and a delayed menstrual cycle. Additionally, the bleeding can be heavier or lighter and longer or shorter.
- Pregnancy: If an egg is fertilized and implants in the uterine lining, menstruation may not occur. The follicle can develop into the corpus luteum, which primarily produces the hormone progesterone, creating ideal conditions for maintaining the pregnancy. After giving birth, your cycle may also become irregular, especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Miscarriages: Repeated miscarriages can often result in an irregular cycle accompanied by labor-like pains.
- Unhealthy diet: Eating disorders, in particular, can cause cycle disturbances. For example, in anorexia nervosa, energy reserves can become depleted, leading to the signaling of cycle cessation by the brain to protect against potential pregnancies. However, overweight, binge eating, and bulimia can also cause an irregular cycle.
- Substance abuse: Substances such as nicotine, alcohol, or others can be a potential cause of irregular menstrual bleeding. Drugs can have negative effects on the hormonal system.
- Birth control methods:
The pill or other hormonal contraceptives such as hormone patches or vaginal rings typically inhibit the body's own hormone production. This can also suppress ovulation. These methods contain progestin, a hormone similar to progesterone, which can mimic pregnancy in the body.
When you stop taking the pill, you may experience an irregular cycle. This can last for up to a year because the body's hormone production needs time to regulate itself again. Copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) or other non-hormonal contraceptives can also lead to an irregular cycle.
- Uterine surgeries: Cycle disturbances can also occur after a surgical procedure on the uterus or ovaries. Likewise, an irregular cycle can occur due to surgery on the ovaries or a cervical dilation and curettage procedure.
These conditions can affect the menstrual cycle
Some diseases can contribute to cycle disturbances, including the following conditions:
Tumors can interfere with hormone production in the pituitary gland. Thyroid dysfunction can also affect hormone production, leading to an altered cycle.
Diabetes can be a cause of an irregular cycle because low or high blood sugar levels can hinder egg maturation.
Endometriosis can be associated with irregular menstrual bleeding and severe menstrual pain.
Furthermore, chronic tubal and ovarian inflammations, benign ovarian cysts (PCOS), and other diseases can be possible causes of cycle disturbances.
Depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, and other mental illnesses are associated with stress, which triggers the body's survival mode. The body shuts down all non-essential functions, including the menstrual cycle.
Cycle disturbances can also be genetically determined, such as in the case of aneuploidies. This refers to an abnormal distribution of chromosomes in the egg.
What you can do if you have an irregular cycle
Herbal medicine uses chaste tree (monk's pepper) to regulate the cycle and alleviate premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The active ingredient can lower prolactin levels in the body, which may be responsible for unpleasant symptoms. Follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen can also be produced, which can help regulate the cycle. Chaste tree is also included in our dietary supplement Harmony.
Since stress is a common cause of cycle disturbances, it is important to create periods of rest and relaxation. Activities such as walks, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation according to Jakobsen, and similar methods can help reduce stress.
Pay attention to a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Take your time for meals and eat consciously and without distractions.
Furthermore, getting sufficient restful sleep is important for maintaining balance and relaxation.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have any of the following symptoms of an irregular cycle, you should consult a doctor:
- Your cycle used to be regular and is now irregular.
- Your cycle disturbances are accompanied by cramping pain and infrequent periods.
- You experience varying abdominal pain during the cycle.
- The irregular cycle is associated with rapid weight loss or gain.
- You have infrequent bleeding, and in addition, experience facial hair growth, chest hair, and weight gain.
- You have spotting or breakthrough bleeding.
- Menstruation suddenly stops without any apparent reason.
- After stopping hormonal birth control, your period has been absent for more than six months.
What are typical treatments and procedures?
Your doctor will first take a medical history. This may involve describing the irregular cycle in detail. They will also ask about any physical or mental illnesses you have or have had in the past, as well as inquire about weight fluctuations and medication use.
To determine the cause, a gynecological and physical examination is usually conducted. It may be necessary for you to measure your basal temperature in the morning, as the results can indicate a lack of ovulation or a disturbance in egg maturation. Hormonal disorders can be identified through a blood test.
Additional examinations such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and/or ultrasound may be used. These imaging techniques can detect tumors or changes in the reproductive organs. The treatment depends on the underlying cause of the problems. Hormone preparations can stabilize the menstrual cycle. If a disease is the reason for the irregular cycle, the focus is on treating that particular condition.
Trying to conceive despite menstrual cycle disorders?
A slight variation of three to four days in the menstrual cycle is usually not a problem for fertility. If the cycle is longer or shorter, it is advisable to seek medical diagnosis first..
Depending on the cause, your doctor will discuss suitable treatments with you. In most cases, stress reduction is recommended, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and relaxation methods. It is also important to avoid nicotine, alcohol, and other substances. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial as well.
If the cause of the menstrual cycle disorder is a medical condition, medication, surgical intervention, or hormone therapy may be necessary. Natural remedies such as chaste tree (monk's pepper) can also contribute to hormone balance stabilization. Our dietary supplements can support you in your desire to conceive.
|Tip: Be sure to check out our Fertile+F dietary supplement , which you can take together with håvsund Harmony.|
If you have a desire to conceive but experience an irregular cycle, it is helpful to tune into your own body. What stresses you out? How can you change your daily routine to become more balanced and content? Incorporate things into your life that bring you joy and make you feel good. Observe your body and take note of any monthly symptoms related to your cycle.
And most importantly, don't pressure yourselft to become pregnant. It may take longer to conceive with an irregular cycle. Putting pressure on yourself can lead to a spiral of stress, and as you now know, stress is one of the common causes of menstrual cycle disorders. Seek professional help if you are unable to cope with internal stress on your own.