The menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes in the reproductive hormones which a woman’s body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. For most women, a normal menstrual cycle ranges from 21-35 day and can last two to seven days. In the first few years of commencement of menstruation, irregular cycles are very common. However, menstrual cycles tend to become more regular as you age. Nonetheless,14-25% of women can have irregular cycles which can be either shorter or longer than normal or are heavier or lighter than normal.
Types of Menstrual Irregularities:
Amenorrhoea – the absence of menstruation
Oligomenorrhoea-infrequent menstrual periods more than 35 days
Menorrhagia-heavy bleeding during periods.
Prolonged menstrual bleeding more than 8 days of bleeding on a regular basis.
Dysmenorrhoea-pain during periods
Polymenorrhoea-frequent menstrual periods occurring less than 21 days apart.
Intermenstrual bleeding-bleeding occurring in between periods.
Causes of Menstrual Irregularities:
Menstrual irregularities can have many causes. The most common ones are :
Medical disorders- extreme weight loss/ eating disorders
Perimenopause and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Certain contraceptive methods like birth control pills, injections (depo provera) and iucds (copper T) also alter menstrual cycles.
So one must discuss with your gynecologist what changes in menstrual cycle one can expect with their use. Some other conditions like ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tube), Clotting disorders (von Willebrand’s disease) and cancer of the uterus or cervix (mouth of the uterus) also alter the menstrual cycle.
When should you consult a specialist?
Any patient with menstrual irregularity should have a thorough history and clinical examination by your gynecologist to rule out any associated medical or behavioral problems.
Along with that blood investigations and radiological tests like ultrasound can help in diagnosing any associated conditions. It is not always possible to prevent menstrual irregularities.
In some case, these can be prevented by use of birth control pills which can help in regulating menstrual cycles. Treating the underlying medical disorders helps in correcting the menstrual irregularities.