Fourteen possible reasons for an irregular period

14 possible causes for irregular periods

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What causes irregular periods?

Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your last period to the start of your next period. Your period is considered irregular if it’s longer than 38 days or if the duration varies.

Irregular periods can have several causes, from hormonal imbalances to other underlying conditions, and should be evaluated by your doctor. Here’s a look at the possible causes and their symptoms.

1. Pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause you to miss your period or experience spotting. Other symptoms of early pregnancy may include:

  • morning sickness
  • nausea
  • sensitivity to smells
  • breast tingling or tenderness
  • fatigue

If you miss a period or notice changes in your period and you’ve had sex, you can take a pregnancy test at home or see your doctor to find out if you’re pregnant.

If you may be pregnant and experience sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvis or abdomen that lasts more than a few minutes, see your doctor right away to rule out ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.

2. Hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control pills and hormone-containing intrauterine devices (IUDs) can cause irregular bleeding.

Birth control pills may cause spotting between periods and result in much lighter periods.

An IUD may cause heavy bleeding.

3. Breastfeeding

Prolactin is a hormone that’s responsible for breast milk production. Prolactin suppresses your reproductive hormones resulting in very light periods or no period at all while you’re breastfeeding.

Your periods should return shortly after you stop breastfeeding. Read on to learn more the effects of breastfeeding on your period.

4. Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the transition phase before you enter menopause. It usually begins in your 40s, but can occur earlier.

You may experience signs and symptoms lasting from 4 to 8 years, beginning with changes to your menstrual cycle. Fluctuating estrogen levels during this time can cause your menstrual cycles to get longer or shorter.

Other signs and symptoms of perimenopause include:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • mood changes
  • difficulty sleeping
  • vaginal dryness

5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Irregular periods are the most common sign of PCOS. If you have PCOS, you may miss periods and have heavy bleeding when you do get your period.

PCOS can also cause:

  • infertility
  • excess facial and body hair
  • male-pattern baldness
  • weight gain or obesity

6. Thyroid problems

A 2015 study found that 44 percent of participants with menstrual irregularities also had thyroid disorders.

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, can cause longer, heavier periods and increased cramping. You may also experience fatigue, sensitivity to cold, and weight gain.

High levels of thyroid hormones, which is seen in hyperthyroidism, can cause shorter, lighter periods. You may also experience:

  • sudden weight loss
  • anxiety and nervousness
  • heart palpitations

Swelling at the base of your neck is another common sign of a thyroid disorder.

7. Uterine fibroids

Fibroids are muscular tumors that develop in the wall of the uterus. Most fibroids are noncancerous and can range in size from as small as an apple seed to the size of a grapefruit.

Fibroids can cause your periods to be very painful and heavy enough to cause anemia. You may also experience:

  • pelvic pain or pressure
  • low back pain
  • pain in your legs
  • pain during sex

Most fibroids don’t require treatment and symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications and an iron supplement if you develop anemia.

8. Endometriosis

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. This is a condition in which the tissue that normally lines your uterus grows outside the uterus.

Endometriosis causes very painful, even debilitating menstrual cramps. Endometriosis also causes heavy bleeding, prolonged periods, and bleeding between periods.

Other symptoms may include:

  • gastrointestinal pain
  • painful bowel movements
  • pain during and after intercourse
  • infertility

Exploratory surgery is the only way to diagnose endometriosis. There’s currently no cure for the condition, but symptoms can be managed with medication or hormone therapy.

9. Being overweight

Obesity is known to cause menstrual irregularity. Research shows that being overweight impacts hormone and insulin levels, which can interfere with your menstrual cycle.

Rapid weight gain can also cause menstrual irregularities. Weight gain and irregular periods are common signs of PCOS and hypothyroidism, and should be evaluated by your doctor.

10. Extreme weight loss and eating disorders

Excessive or rapid weight loss can cause your period to stop. Not consuming enough calories can interfere with the production of the hormones needed for ovulation.

You’re considered underweight if you have a body mass index lower than 18.5. Along with stopped periods, you may also experience fatigue, headaches, and hair loss.

See your doctor if:

  • you’re underweight
  • have lost a lot of weight without trying
  • you have an eating disorder

11. Excessive exercise

Intense or excessive exercise has been shown to interfere with the hormones responsible for menstruation.

Female athletes and women who participate in intensive training and physical activities, such as ballet dancers, often develop amenorrhea, which is missed or stopped periods.

Cutting back on your training and increasing your calorie count can help restore your periods.

12. Stress

Research shows that stress can interfere with your menstrual cycle by temporarily interfering with the part of the brain that controls the hormones that regulate your cycle. Your periods should return to normal after your stress decreases. Try these 16 techniques to relieve your stress.

13. Medications

Certain medications can interfere with your menstrual cycle, including:

  • hormone replacement therapy
  • blood thinners
  • thyroid medications
  • epilepsy drugs
  • antidepressants
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • aspirin and ibuprofen

Speak to your doctor about changing your medication.

14. Cervical and endometrial cancer

Cervical and endometrial cancers can cause changes to your menstrual cycle, along with bleeding between periods or heavy periods. Bleeding during or after intercourse and unusual discharge are other signs and symptoms of these cancers.

Remember that these symptoms are more commonly caused by other issues. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned.

When to call your healthcare provider

There are several possible causes of irregular periods, many of which require medical treatment. Make an appointment to see your doctor if:

  • your periods stop for more than 3 months and you’re not pregnant
  • your periods become irregular suddenly
  • you have a period that lasts longer than 7 days
  • you need more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
  • you develop severe pain during your period
  • your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
  • you experience spotting between periods
  • you experience other symptoms, such as unusual discharge or fever

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and want to know about:

  • any stress or emotional issues you’re experiencing
  • any changes to your weight
  • your sexual history
  • how much you exercise

Medical tests may also be used to help diagnose the cause of your irregular bleeding, including:

  • a pelvic examination
  • blood tests
  • abdominal ultrasound
  • pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI

Treatments

Treatment depends on what’s causing your irregular periods and may require treating an underlying medical condition. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • oral contraceptives
  • hormonal IUDs
  • thyroid medication
  • metformin
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • exercise
  • vitamin D supplements

Stress reduction techniques may also help, including:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • cutting back on work and other demands

How to track your period

Tracking your period is a good idea even when your period is regular. You can track your period on a calendar or in a notebook, or use one of the many period tracking apps available.

Begin tracking your period by marking the first day of your period on a calendar. Within a few months you’ll begin to see if your periods are regular or different each month.

Keep track of the following:

  • PMS symptoms, such as headaches, cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and moods
  • when your bleeding begins and whether or not it was earlier or later than expected
  • how heavy your bleeding was, including how many pads or tampons you used
  • symptoms during your period, such as cramping, back pain, and other symptoms and how bad they were
  • how long your period lasted and whether or not it was longer or shorter than your last period

Outlook

Irregular periods can be caused by a number of things, some of them serious. Your doctor can help you determine the cause and help you get your cycle back on track. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding stress can also help.

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare.  Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Forgiveness Fills Life with Research Proven Health Benefits

Maybe you are considering forgiveness for yourself or others, but you’re not sure it’s worth the emotional effort. You might prefer to ignore the painful memories, stuff it down and keep going about your daily affairs. You will just deal with it later, right?

To forgive, whether yourself or others, and to be forgiven, brings relief beyond just the emotional or even spiritual, if you at a person of faith.  Today is Forgiveness Day – one of many observed throughout the year.  The original was established as International Forgiveness Day in response to a call to set aside old differences made by Desmond Tutu.  There is also Global Forgiveness Day next Saturday, and National Forgiveness Day in October.  All have one purpose – to encourage us to set things right; and there are great health benefits to doing so!

Whether it’s a bout with your boss, a feud with a family member or friend, or a spat with your spouse, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. Not forgiving has its costs. When we harbor grudges and grievances, we retain everything that goes with them: anxiety, irritability, anger, and depression.  We may suffer insomnia, experience weight gain or loss, endure depletion of trust in ourselves and others, get caught up in numbing addictions and get stuck in a nerve fraying fight-or-flight mode.

The list is long and disabling.  The good news: Studies have found the act of forgiveness can pay huge dividends for your health, And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

What are the health benefits of forgiveness?

In a study at Virginia Commonwealth University, researchers sought to prove what many might already feel is common sense. They wrote, “Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system.” [1]

Dr. Bernie Siegel, author, surgeon and retired medical professor at Yale University, said, “I have collected 57 extremely well-documented so-called cancer miracles. At a certain particular moment in time, they decided that the anger and the depression were probably not the best way to go, since they had such little time left.

And so, they went from that to being loving, caring, no longer angry, no longer depressed, and able to talk to the people they loved. These 57 people had the same pattern. They gave up—totally—their anger, and they gave up—totally—their depression, by specifically a decision to do so. And at that point, the tumors started to shrink.” [2]

Medical researchers have become increasingly interested in studying the effects of forgiveness as a healing process. Evidence is mounting:  holding onto painful memories and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits, including:

  1. Lower blood pressure

When we no longer feel anxiety or anger because of past grievances, our heart rate evens out and our blood pressure drops. This normalizes many processes in the body and brings us our heart and circulatory system into stability.

  1. Stress reduction

Forgiveness eases stress because we no longer recycle thoughts (both consciously and subconsciously) that cause psychic stress to arise. By offering our burdens for healing, we learn how to leave irritation and stress behind.

  1.  Less hostility

By its very nature, forgiveness asks us to let go of hostility toward ourselves and others.  Spontaneous hostile behavior, like road rage and picking a fight for no reason, diminishes as our commitment to forgiveness goes up.

  1. Better anger-management skills

With fewer and fewer burdens from the past weighing us down, we have more self-control when we do get angry. We’ll be better able to take some breaths, count to ten, take a time-out or get some exercise—rather than strike out or lash out in anger.

  1. Lower heart rate

Forgiveness relaxes our hearts –  pain will ease out of our system. Our hearts calm down, and our heart rate decreases as a result.

  1. Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse

This is a big one – possibly the biggest and best reason to jump into a forgiveness practice without delay. Substance abuse is a mask for underlying pain. Forgiveness helps release that pain and find the gifts in our situation instead.

  1. Fewer depression symptoms

Similar to lowering substance abuse, this is a crucial issue with retained anguish. Depression is debilitating and can lead to suicide. On the other hand, forgiveness gives us healing and can leave room to replace depression with a sense of purpose and compassion.

  1. Fewer anxiety symptoms

Almost everyone needs to forgive him or herself as well as others. Anxiety often arises when we fear we’ve done something wrong. Our guilty conscience causes tension at a deep level. Forgiveness helps us to love ourselves deeply, relieving inner pain.

  1. Reduction in chronic pain

Physical pain often has psychological underpinnings. When we allow a profound shift to happen with forgiveness, we heal ourselves on both psychological and physical levels. Thus, chronic pain can be reversed, and we can be restored to best health.

  1. More friendships

When we’re no longer holding grudges, we can get a lot closer to friends and family. Old relationships have a chance to change and grow, and new relationships can enter—all because we made room for them with forgiveness.

  1. Healthier relationships

When we make forgiveness a regular part of our emotional practice, we start to notice all of our relationships begin to blossom. There’s far less drama to deal with, and that’s a huge bonus.

  1. Improved psychological well-being

A good life, full of quality relationships, service to others and fun, is something that most of us hope for without ever knowing how to create it.  By releasing our grievances, we become more harmonious on all levels. Nightmares recede, and exciting new life visions become commonplace. We feel calmer, happier and ready to give compassion and love to the world.

  1. Enhanced immune function

Forgiveness lowers cortisol – a steroid hormone produced in response to stress that causes weight gain – and boosts immune function. You’ll feel more relaxed and centered, and you won’t get sick as easily once you’ve let go for good through forgiveness.

Looking at the list, it’s easy to see that if you had lower stress, hostility, blood pressure and chronic pain, you’d be far healthier for it. Also, if you had better relationships, improved psychological well-being and greater emotional connection, you could be living a life of joy and purpose.

Can You Learn to Be More Forgiving?

Now, look at this list below to see if you would enjoy improvements in any of these areas of your life:

  • Your Physical Health
  • Relationships with Loved Ones (Lovers, Spouse, Exes, and Friends)
  • Family Issues with Parents, Siblings and Children
  • Trauma from Childhood
  • Impacts of Racism, Sexism and Other “Isms”
  • Money Worries
  • Sexual Issues
  • Blocked Creativity

Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether deserved or not. As you release anger, resentment and hostility, you make room for empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.

Studies have found some people are just naturally more forgiving. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health issues described earlier. But that doesn’t mean they can’t train themselves to act in healthier ways. 62 percent of American adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives, according to a survey by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute.

Making Forgiveness Part of Your Life

Forgiveness is a choice.  You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.  The following steps can help you develop a more forgiving attitude—and benefit from better emotional and physical health.

Reflect and remember.

That includes the events themselves, and also how you reacted, how you felt, and how the anger and hurt have affected you since.

Empathize with the other person.

For instance, if your spouse grew up in an alcoholic family, then anger when you have too much to drink might be understandable.

Forgive deeply.

Simply forgiving someone because you think you have no other alternative or because you think your faith requires it may be enough to bring some healing, but one study found people whose forgiveness came in part from understanding no one is perfect were able to resume a normal relationship with the other person.  This was true even if that person never apologized. Those who only forgave in an effort to salvage the relationship typically wound up with a worse relationship.

Let go of expectations.

An apology may not change your relationship with the other person or elicit an apology from them. If you don’t expect either, you won’t be disappointed.

Decide to forgive.

Once you make that choice, seal it with an action. If you don’t feel you can talk to the person who wronged you, write about your forgiveness in a journal or even talk about it with someone else in your life whom you trust and can be supportive.

Forgive yourself.

The act of forgiving includes forgiving yourself. Failings of the past are not a reflection of your worth.

If you are suffering any of the debilitating effects of unforgiveness, it is a great day to relieve yourself and others of the tremendous burden of holding on to hurt.  And if you need a professional to speak with about any of the physical effects you are feeling, find them in HealthLynked.

In our novel HealthCare ecosystem, we are connecting physicians and patients in unique ways.  Lower the stress and confusion of seeing a provider and sharing relevant health information through HealthLynked.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com to register for free!


Definitions

Immune response: How your immune system recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful substances. A response can include anything from coughing and sneezing to an increase in white blood cells, which attack foreign substances.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder in which your “fight or flight,” or stress, response stays switched on, even when you have nothing to flee or battle. The disorder usually develops after an emotional or physical trauma, such as a mugging, physical abuse or a natural disaster. Symptoms include nightmares, insomnia, angry outbursts, emotional numbness, and physical and emotional tension.

Sources:

[1] Worthington, Everett & Witvliet, Charlotte & Pietrini, Pietro & J Miller, Andrea. (2007). Forgiveness, Health, and Well-Being: A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgivingness, and Reduced Unforgiveness. Journal of behavioral medicine. 30. 291-302. 10.1007/s10865-007-9105-8.

[2]Meisner-Morton, Carole J.  Entering Your Own Heart: A Guide to Developing Self Love, Inner Peace and Happiness.  Balboa Press. 2015.

[3] HopkinsMedicine.org

[4] WisdomTimes.com