By Carolina Boyd
A woman’s menstrual period is an indicator of her health as well as any issues that may be going on in her body. Many women get their period on a regular monthly basis. However, it is not uncommon to develop irregular menstrual periods during the course of a woman’s life.
A period is the part of a woman’s menstrual cycle in which the lining of the uterus is shed. Periods often start in puberty, between the ages of 10 to 15, and continue until menopause, which typically occurs in a woman’s early 50’s. A woman’s period is counted from the first day of her last period up to the start of her next. It is considered irregular if that time frame is longer than 38 days or if the duration constantly changes.
There are many reasons why women have irregular periods. The monthly cycle can be impacted by changes in the body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, which is why girls going through puberty and women approaching menopause often have irregular periods.
Changes in a woman’s regular cycle can be caused by:
- Hormonal changes due to puberty, menopause, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, childbirth and breastfeeding.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can affect menstruation.
- Stress and anxiety can temporarily alter the hormones that regulate your period.
- Thyroid problems can impact a woman’s periods. The thyroid gland produces hormones that affect a woman’s metabolism.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a condition that causes cysts to form in the ovaries causing women not to ovulate.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection of the female reproductive system. It is one of most common and serious complications of sexually transmitted infections.
Medical treatment for irregular periods is not usually necessary during puberty and around menopause. Call your OB/GYN or primary care doctor if you have had regular, monthly periods and the pattern changes. Your doctor can perform a physical examination and other tests to rule out a possible pregnancy or any health problems. Possible treatments for irregular periods include oral contraceptives, lifestyle changes around diet and exercise and in some cases surgery.
Legacy Community Health offers a comprehensive range of OB/GYN services including help with the management of irregular menstruation. We can help with issues ranging from the onset of menstruation to those related to menopause. Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment with a Legacy OB/GYN provider.