Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, many women have been brought up to believe that a menstrual cycle should be 28 days long. But for many women, their cycles last as few as 21 days or as long as 35 — and this is considered normal. As long as you see consistency each month, this is not cause for concern.
An erratic cycle that shows no pattern, however, may need to be evaluated. Particularly, a sudden loss of regular menstrual periods, or cycles that go from 20 days one month to 50 the next. Although it’s not necessarily a health problem, it is a reason to see your gynecologist to get some answers.
Causes of irregular periods
There are a number of things that can throw a period off its course. They include:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding (these are the most common reasons — and also the most obvious)
- Certain medications
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Excessive exercise
- Thyroid problems
- Uterine fibroids
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Changing birth control pills or using an intrauterine device (IUD)
As you can see, a number of things can contribute to menstrual changes. Usually, you’ll be able to narrow down the list if you know for certain you’re not pregnant, for example. But conditions like PCOS and hyperthyroidism can be harder to recognize and will require a physician’s expertise.
Talking with your gynecologist
If you are suddenly experiencing irregular periods, it’s a good idea to call your gynecologist. You may need to come in for an exam and discuss your health history. Depending on your symptoms, you may need to have certain tests done. Be sure to talk with your gynecologist about all your symptoms, and be as open as possible about things like birth control usage and sexual partners. This information will be used to help you find a solution, and your gynecologist keeps this confidential.
Depending on your diagnosis, your treatment for irregular periods may vary. Sometimes addressing an underlying condition will correct the issue, or changing the type of birth control you’re using. Remember that for young women going through puberty and women who are going through perimenopause, irregular periods are common and not necessarily a cause for concern. They can often be regulated with the use of a low-dose birth control pill.
Keeping track of your periods
Knowing when you expect your period is a good thing for many reasons. It can alert you to health problems and tell you if you might be pregnant. It’s also an important reference for your regular gynecology visits. You might wish to note the start of your period on a calendar each month. There are also apps available that allow you to track your menstrual cycles and symptoms, so you know what to expect each month.
By having good communication with your healthcare provider, you can determine the cause of irregular menstrual cycles and find ways to correct the underlying issue. Your menstrual cycles are often an important indicator of your overall health -- so pay attention to what they are trying to tell you.
CarePoint Health Gynecology
With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.