Early, delayed, or absent. Does your period take you by surprise every month? With this comes the fear of pregnancy, if you are sexually active.
Although you cannot always blame pregnancy for your delayed or absent periods, it could be a possibility! Most women experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle, either due to health problems or lifestyle. Whatever the reason may be, irregular periods can mean a lot of worries. If you are getting worked up due to this, take a look at these common causes of irregular periods to help you normalize them.
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition that affects the functioning of the ovaries. Women with PCOS produce higher levels of a male hormone called androgen, which affects the development and release of the eggs from the ovary.1
As the mature eggs are not released from the ovaries, it affects your menstrual cycle, causing irregularities in your period. Excessive hair growth, weight gain, and acne are the other symptoms of PCOS. Doctors usually prescribe oral contraceptives to improve ovulation and menstrual regularity.2
2. Being Underweight Or Overweight
Maintaining healthy weight is essential for your overall health. But did you know that it could also affect the frequency of your period? When you are overweight or underweight, the estrogen levels in the body are affected.
Estrogen regulates your menstrual cycle. When you are underweight, there less estrogen produced in the body due to the lack of fat cells. Being underweight is associated with problems such as eating disorders, digestive disorders, and physical and mental illnesses, which can cause unintentional weight loss.
Although body fat is important for producing estrogen, excess body fat can do more harm than good. If you are overweight, you may experience irregular periods due to the elevated levels of estrogen that affect the release of eggs from the ovaries. Obese women sometimes experience heavy and painful periods, which often impacts their daily activities.3
Stress, especially chronic stress can wreak havoc on your hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, impacts the production of estrogen and progesterone. This is the reason why too much cortisol in your body can result in changes in your menstrual cycle.
To avoid this, do yoga and meditation to help you reduce stress. They can not only help you relax and manage stress but also improve your overall health. Studies suggest that mindful meditation can lower cortisol levels in the blood, which reduces stress and the diseases associated with it.4
People use smoking as a way to cope with stress. However, it is neither a long-term stress reliever not the solution to your problems. Additionally, cigarette smoking is associated with irregular menstruation. It was found that women who smoked an average of 10 or more cigarettes per day had more irregular and shorter period cycles than non-smokers.5
4. Poor Diet
A diet rich in nutrients can keep you healthy and your cycle regular. Deficiency in essential nutrients such as vitamin D and vitamin E can lead to hormonal imbalance, which in turn affects the menstrual cycle. A diet rich in healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, oils, and fish can regulate your menstrual cycle. However, avoid processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol to normalize your period.
On the other hand, eating too much or too little can affect your menstrual cycle, even if your diet is nutrient-rich. This happens due to the changes in estrogen levels due to weight gain or weight loss.
Although taking contraceptives can effectively prevent pregnancy, it can also affect your menstrual cycle. These medications contain hormones, which suppress ovulation, thereby making your period lighter or irregular.6
Certain antidepressants can also disrupt your cycle.7 However, the mechanism of its effect on your hormones remains unknown.
6. Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormone which controls your heart rate, breathing, temperature, metabolism, and menstrual cycle. The functioning of your thyroid gland and menstrual cycle is closely related to the endocrine system that regulates the hormones in the body. As a result, too much or too little of the thyroid hormone can make your period irregular, light, or heavy. It may also stop your periods for several months as it can have a direct impact on ovulation.8
Exercising is good for your mental and physical health but exercising too much can affect the normal functioning of your body. Over-exercising, whether it is to prepare for a marathon or lose weight, gives your body a signal that it is stressed.
Increased cortisol levels due to stress can lead to a hormonal imbalance and also lower your energy levels. This often causes periods to be irregular or not come at all. Women athletes often experience this due to overtraining.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a healthy weight and following a balanced diet, is required to reduce the risk of irregular periods.
|↑1||Azziz, Ricardo, V. Black, G. A. Hines, L. M. Fox, and L. R. Boots. “Adrenal androgen excess in the polycystic ovary syndrome: sensitivity and responsivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 83, no. 7 (1998): 2317-2323.|
|↑2||Polycystic ovary syndrome. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑3||How Obesity Impacts Your Menstrual Cycle. The University of California.|
|↑4||Turakitwanakan, Wanpen, Chantana Mekseepralard, and Panaree Busarakumtragul. “Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand= Chotmaihet thangphaet 96 (2013): S90-5.|
|↑5||Windham, G. C., E. P. Elkin, S. H. Swan, K. O. Waller, and L. Fenster. “Cigarette smoking and effects on menstrual function.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 93, no. 1 (1999): 59-65.|
|↑6||Hormonal medicines and periods. Healthdirect Australia.|
|↑7||Uguz, Faruk, Mine Sahingoz, Seyit Ali Kose, Ozgur Ozbebit, Cem Sengul, Yavuz Selvi, Ceyhan Balci Sengul, Medine Gıynas Ayhan, Adnan Dagistanli, and Rustem Askin. “Antidepressants and menstruation disorders in women: a cross-sectional study in three centers.” General hospital psychiatry 34, no. 5 (2012): 529-533.|
|↑8||Thyroid disease. Womenshealth, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.|