Are my periods irregular?
Normally, menses should occur approximately every 28 days in women (with a range of 21-35 days) and should last between 4-7 days. Bleeding is considered abnormal if it occurs outside of these parameters (cycles shorter than 21 days, longer than 35 days, or bleeding lasts longer than 7 days).
What causes irregular periods?
Irregular periods may be caused by a number of factors including but not limited to the following:
- Pre-mature ovarian failure: POF occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working before the age of 40. When the ovaries stop working, they stop producing estrogen and releasing eggs.
- Hyperprolactinemia: Hyperprolactinemia occurs when prolactin levels are elevated. Prolactin is a hormone that is responsible for milk production. Symptoms of hyperprolactinemia include irregular/absent periods, vaginal dryness, or breast discharge when not pregnant or nursing. High prolactin levels are most often caused by a prolactinoma (a benign tumor located on the pituitary), but can also be caused by medications or an underactive thyroid.
- Low estrogen: In women over the age of 40, decreasing levels of estrogen can be common as the body prepares for menopause. In women under the age of 40, low estrogen levels can be caused by low body fat, intense exercise, and eating disorders.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome: PCOS is a syndrome marked by increased androgens (male hormones which could cause acne, excessive hair growth or hair thinning), anovulatory cycles, and ovarian cysts.
- Thyroid dysfunction: Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may cause menstrual cycle irregularities, which may range from absent, infrequent periods, or light periods to frequent and heavy periods.
- Perimenopause: Perimenopause occurs just prior to menopause. The average age of perimenopause is 47.5 years and it lasts approximately 4 years in length. In the early stages of perimenopause, menstrual cycles shorten by as much as 7 days. In the later stages of perimenopause, missed periods occur and the cycle length is often 60+ days or more.
Why seek advice from a Naturopathic Doctor for irregular periods:
- An ND will investigate the cause of irregularities in your menstrual cycle and determine the most important treatment.
- Hormone testing can be ordered through a ND to identify imbalances that may be contributing to symptoms.
- Treatment will focus on the person, not just on menstrual cycle irregularities. Treatments may include supplements, acupuncture, and necessary dietary or lifestyle changes. An ND will check supplement interactions with current medications before prescribing to ensure there are no interactions.