Possible Causes of Menstrual Irregularities

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Many women report experiencing menstrual  irregularities at some point in their lives. These occur primarily in the form of longer duration of or between periods, but can also refer to abnormal blood loss or pain during menstruation. Irregularities are especially common among teenagers and perimenopausal women.  In most cases, temporary menstrual irregularities are nothing to worry about. If such irregularities persist, however, this could be an indication of an serious underlying health issue.

Besides pregnancy and menopause–which are both are both perfectly normal, healthy for a woman to stop having her period–the following are the most common causes of menstrual irregularities:

1. Intense Stress

When your body is experiencing a lot of stress (i.e. due to some traumatic event), it attempts to conserve as much energy as possible for use in fight or flight. Being fertile, though important, is not necessary for survival and your body prevents ovulation (and therefore the probability of getting pregnant) in times of stress.

The production of stress hormones by the adrenal glands can also disrupt the production of other thyroid and reproductive hormones that are responsible for building up the uterine lining (which prepares the uterus for pregnancy). Since periods are essentially shedding of the uterine lining, a thin lining stops them from occurring.

2. Poor Eating Habits

Diets that contain high quantities of saturated fats, stimulants, sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives and pesticides can be damaging to the adrenal and thyroid glands (responsible for hormone production). This too can cause hormonal imbalance in the body, leading to menstrual irregularities.

Foods containing antioxidants, probiotics and other nutrients can actually improve regularity.

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia cause physical stress and thus also lead to irregular periods.

3. Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland plays a huge role in regulating body systems and metabolism through the secretion of hormones. Disorders of the thyroid (in which the thyroid gland secretes too many or too few hormones, are one of the leading causes of missed periods. This is because these disorders affect the levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) and reproductive hormone (estrogen) in the blood.

4. Breastfeeding

Prolactin, the primary hormone required for breast milk production prevents menstruation. As long as you continue for breastfeed, you will have high levels of this hormone in your blood. Once you wean your baby off breast milk, your periods will probably return to normal in a short while.

5. Extreme Exercise

Exercise is very good for your body, but too much of it can put unnecessary pressure on your adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands. Many endurance athletes frequency miss their periods. This is because of the physical stress (and subsequent release of stress hormones) caused by overworking. Running, dancing and bodybuilding are the exercises most commonly associated with missed periods. Athletes can even use the regularity of their menstrual cycle to determine whether they are pushing themselves too hard during workouts.

6. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a complex medical condition in which cysts form on the ovaries and interfere with their normal functioning. It occurs in almost ten percent of females, though certain ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing the disease. In addition to other unpleasant symptoms (acne, infertility etc.) PCOS, causes infrequent but painful and heavy periods.

7. Birth Control

Many birth control pills interfere with the normal balance of hormones in the body. Be sure to ask your gynecologist about the anticipated effects of your chosen birth control on your menstrual cycle.

8. Uterine Fibroids and Polyps

Though comparatively rare, uterine fibroids (benign tumors in the uterine muscle) and polyps cause heavy and abnormal bleeding as well as abdominal pain. If you find yourself bleeding between periods, this may be the reason.

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