Many will experience irregular periods at some point in their lives.
While having the odd irregular menstrual cycle here and there is not usually considered an issue, if your periods are frequently irregular, it can be a sign of a deeper health issue.
Getting to know and tracking your own cycle is an important way for you to first know if you are regular or not, and it can also help you to notice if there’s a sudden irregularity or change.
How long is a regular menstrual cycle?
The average menstrual cycle fluctuates between about 21-35 days (with an average of 28 days), while a normal period lasts between 3 and 7 days depending on the individual. What may be considered as normal and regular for one woman may be different for you.
What is most important in terms of regularity (or knowing if you are regular) is that your average cycle (however many days that may be) more or less stays at the same length.
What is an irregular period?
An irregular period usually means there is a sudden variation to the pattern of your menstrual cycle, either in the number of days of your monthly cycle, or of your period flow.
So, if your menstrual cycle suddenly deviates from the norm, for example becomes shorter, longer, heavier or lighter than usual, or in the case that your period doesn’t even show up at all, then it could be a sign that you have an irregular period cycle.
Checklist: signs you may have an irregular period:
You frequently go more than 35 days or less than 21 days between periods.
Within your own cycle, your cycle length suddenly changes significantly – for example, one month your cycle lasts 25 days and another month, 35 days. Even though the length of cycle is considered normal, as there are significant changes to your cycle length, this would be considered as irregular.
You experience abnormal bleeding or spotting between periods.
You have extreme mood swings or other abnormal period symptoms.
Fluctuating by just a couple of days here and there is not something to worry about and does not signify that your period is irregular (for example if your cycle during one month is 22 days and then during another it is 25 days – that’s ok!).
Reasons for a missed or irregular period
As your menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, an irregular cycle is a common sign that there is some kind of hormonal imbalance, which can be caused by a number of different factors, including:
Hormonal fluctuations during puberty and menopause.
Stress or anxiety
Extreme or sudden weight gain / weight loss
While many women experience delayed or early periods, the only way to really know if your periods are irregular or not is by keeping track of your monthly cycle.
Luckily this is now easy to do with an online period tracker app such as Clue. The more you know about your cycle, the better you’ll be at knowing if there are any irregularities or sudden changes.
If you know that you are not pregnant and if your period is consistently showing up early or late (for example over a time period of 3 months) – or even not at all – then you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible because there could be an underlying issue.
Causes of irregular periods can include:
STD (sexually transmitted disease)
Over- or underactive thyroid
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), a rare condition that effects 5-10% of women. It causes a hormonal imbalance which can result in a number of side effects, including irregular periods, weight gain, excessive hair growth on the face, chin or body, acne, infertility and cysts on ovaries.
Ways to regulate your period
It is not possible to predict if you will experience irregular periods, but there are things you can do to naturally regulate your period such as paying attention to your diet, making sure that you take time out of your busy work schedule to destress, doing meditation and exercising regularly.
Any kind of exercise that can take your mind off things, whether it’s walking the dog, going for a gentle jog or hitting the gym, is another great way to give your body a dose of those feel-good endorphins that will help your hormones to find their mojo again. If you have late or irregular periods, it can be stressful not knowing when your next period is going to show up.
There are ways you can be prepared, which can take the fear factor out of suddenly being “caught short” with no protection to hand.
Menstrual cups can be a good solution for women suffering from irregular periods, because you don’t waste any disposable menstrual product, and unlike tampons, you can leave a menstrual cup in for 12 hours straight, and there’s no drying out – even if you don’t bleed.
Another benefit is that if you experience a particularly heavy flow, they have the capacity to hold three times the amount of blood that a super tampon can.
There are also certain food types that can help to get your period going, including: Pineapples because they contain the enzyme If you are taking contraceptives, they can also have an effect on your cycle.
Contraceptives such as the pill, IUDs, implants and rings can make periods appear very light or even make you miss them altogether. If you are unsure, speak to your doctor, but the key is knowing what is normal for you.