Women need to know their bodies and keep track of their menstrual health to reduce the risk of contracting grave ailments. Women’s health, both mental and physical, is also affected by the changing hormones. No matter the period taboo, it is important for women to have more conversations around their menstrual health with their peers, family members and spouses. Even though the average woman bleeds every 28 to 34 days, every woman has a unique menstrual cycle.
Irregular periods are a common occurrence in women across the globe. Research shows that it’s not alarming to have a gap of up to 35 days before your next period. However, if your period is more frequent than the minimum gap of 21 days, or if the gap is over 35 days, then it is considered as an irregular period and it’s imperative that you keep track of them.
Why do periods get irregular?
This can be attributed to various psychological and physiological reasons. They could be temporary factors like stress, dietary changes, hormonal imbalance, physical activity, travel, irregular sleep patterns, pregnancy-related or breastfeeding. Listed below are seven such causes that cause your periods to be irregular and what can be done about it. Look out for the ones where you must see your doctor.
Pregnancy: The most common cause of irregular periods, pregnancy can sometimes cause occasional spotting as well. If you are sexually active and have missed a period, then it’s best to take a pregnancy test at home. You should also keep track of your menstrual cycle and check for ovulation. If there’s irregular or no ovulation, there are chances you might be pregnant.
Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are abnormal tumors that grow on the walls of the uterus. They are usually benign or non-cancerous. Symptoms vary from no signs at all to severe abdominal pain and heavy bleeding depending on the size and severity of the fibroid. The causes of fibroids have been unknown so far but research shows that about 20 to 80% of women have fibroids by the time they’re 50 years old but most of them never realise it. If you are facing any of these symptoms, you must consult your gynaecologist.
Endometriosis: One out of ten women suffer from this disorder during their menstruating years, but not many know about it. Endometriosis is that disorder when tissues similar to those that line your uterus from the inside, are found growing outside the uterus. This condition causes extremely painful periods and the cramps are so severe that they can make you feel very weak and faint-headed. Your bowel movements can also cause a lot of pain if you have endometriosis. You must consult your doctor should you have any of these symptoms.
Thyroid issues: Thyroid is a tiny gland situated on the front side of your neck and it is responsible for a number of vital functions in your body. It secretes hormones that support the functioning of your vital organs like brain, heart, kidney, liver and also influences your menstrual health. Irregular periods could be an indicator for a possible thyroid problem. There are two kinds of common thyroid issues: hyperthyroidism wherein there’s an over-secretion of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism causes heavier and longer painful periods. If you have hypothyroidism wherein there’s a dearth in the secretion of this hormone, you may have short and light periods.
Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome or PCOS: Highly affects a woman’s menstrual health. Research indicates that one in every ten women suffers from PCOS. If you are having irregular periods, there are chances you have PCOS. It’s a very common occurrence in menstruating women and can be treated easily.
Unhygienic Diet: Just like any women’s health magazine would tell you, a diet that is imbalanced or has more stimulants and less nutrition, can adversely affect your thyroid and adrenal glands. This can cause irregular periods. It is therefore important that you maintain a healthy diet with a good balance of nutrients.
Over exercising: Exercise is definitely a prerequisite for good menstrual health. But you should never go beyond what your body needs. Excessive work out can harm the thyroid gland, pituitary and adrenal glands leading to irregular periods.
Irregular periods are a cause for concern but don’t always call for medical attention. You can manage your menstrual meticulously by you just by following a few simple steps and a healthy routine. Here are few scientifically proven remedies to regularize your periods and maintain good menstrual health:
Watch your diet and maintain your weight
Both obesity and being underweight can cause irregular periods. It is important to note what your body needs and when it needs it. Eating on time and eating right are essential for maintaining the right weight as per your body-mass index.
Stay Active - Exercise Regularly and Practise Yoga
Research and various surveys show that Yoga is highly instrumental in maintaining good menstrual health and regularizing your periods. Exercise and Yoga also help in reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and reducing pain during your period. Start with baby steps. A good workout or Yoga practice for about 35 to 40 minutes in a day can help you stay healthy. If you suffer from physical ailments or have a history of the same, consult your doctor before you start working out.
Include These Ingredients in Your Diet: Ginger, Cinnamon and Unripe Papaya
Ginger can be effective in regulating periods – however, this is not scientifically proven. But there is some research in this area that goes to show that ginger powder can be consumed to reduce pain and heavy bleeding.
Cinnamon has many health benefits and is also believed to regulate your menstrual cycle. You can make cinnamon a part of your daily diet if you want to straighten out your periods. However, it is not advised to be consumed during your period.
Unripe papaya can be consumed daily to regularize your periods but do not consume it during your period.
Stress is the biggest cause of irregular periods. Stress and anxiety have the potential to cause hormonal imbalance which can then lead to irregular periods. Try to avoid stress as much as possible. Make a conscious effort to stay calm especially in times when you feel worked up. Take deep, long breaths and practice meditation.
Quit Smoking or Stay Away From it
If you are a smoker, you must realize that cigarettes are the only product in the market that come with a disclaimer that it can cause death. Not only do cigarettes carry a number of carcinogens, but it can adversely affect your menstrual health. A stick of cigarette may seem to ease your stress during a work day but it introduces various poisonous chemicals into your body with every drag. Act on it and take steps to quit smoking on priority.
Every woman should cultivate the habit of tracking her menstrual health. Period taboo is so rampant in our society that a lot of adolescent girls are not even aware of menstruation and why it occurs. Although there are ways to regulate your periods without medical intervention, it is best to consult your doctor if you notice something unusual in your menstrual cycle frequently.
Disclaimer: This article is not backed with medical evidence. It is completely based on personal opinion and research points available on the Internet. The article should not be considered as a medical aid in dealing with menstrual problems.
(Edited by Neha Baid)