Periods can be pretty unpredictable. They’re long, they’re short, they’re heavy, they’re light… and of course they just have to arrive when you have plans to wear a bikini in summer! Let’s take a look at what counts as an irregular period, what might be going on inside your body, and if/when to see a doctor about it.
An irregular period does what it says on the tin; it shows up at random moments and doesn’t follow a clear pattern. Having irregular periods means you have a cycle that’s longer or shorter than the average 21-35 day cycle, your periods are heavier or lighter than the average, or you experience odd period-related symptoms. For the purposes of this article, let’s look specifically at what’s going on if your cycle is longer or shorter than the norm.
Your menstrual cycle varies throughout your life, but if you’re the kind of person whose trusty period arrives like clockwork every month, and you can plan ahead by marking it up in your calendar, then you’re nailing life. If, however, you’re like the 14-25% of people with periods who experience an irregular cycle for one reason or another, and you can’t predict when (or if) your period will come, then you’re in the right place.
If you’ve spent time on the Yoppie blog, you’ll know that just about every possible cycle-related condition, as well as a few non-cycle-related ones, seem to cause irregular periods. They’re one of the first bodily functions to throw their hands up and say “nope, we’re out!” at the first sign of something being wrong.
That’s not to say if you have irregular periods there’s anything wrong with you, as it can often be something as simple as going through puberty that’s causing your period to act differently. While a regular period is handy for many and a good indicator that it’s time to pay attention to your body, it can also be frustrating for doctors as just about everyone (*ahem*, 14-25%) experiences irregular periods at some point in life.
No period can be defined as “normal” since they’re different for each person, so it’s all about knowing what’s “normal” for YOU. If you’ve always had irregular periods then there’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if your period has always been regular and suddenly changes, this could indicate anything from being run-down and stressed, to a cycle-related condition (more on those later). One of the first things people assume if their period doesn’t arrive on time is pregnancy, and although this can be true, it’s best to take a test to make sure, as periods can be late for many reasons and you may not be pregnant.
It’s also worth noting different types of birth control have a big impact on how regular your period is, so if you have recently switched to a different kind of birth control this could be what’s causing the change and you may need a few more months for your body to get used to the new hormones and settle into a routine.
Irregular periods on their own typically aren’t considered serious, so try not to worry. If you have other symptoms alongside this, see your doctor to find out what might be going on and to make sure everything is OK. A few possible conditions that can cause irregular periods are listed below, but again, there’s no reason to believe you definitely have one if your only symptom is an irregular period:
In short, if you’re worried about any symptoms - whether they relate to your menstrual cycle or something else - then there’s no harm in booking an appointment with your GP to check what’s going on and make sure everything’s OK.
If your period is irregular, it’s unfortunately not possible to force it into a routine right away. Sometimes lifestyle changes like getting into a consistent daily routine and eating a balanced diet can help, or if your doctor has diagnosed you with one of the conditions mentioned above, you may have a treatment plan that can lead to a more regular cycle with time.
One of the easiest ways to get your period onto a schedule is to start birth control pills, as many of these are taken every day with a seven day ‘rest period’ where you will bleed. Although this option may not be for everyone, starting these pills can lead to a more regular, predictable period when taken for a few months.
Do you have irregular periods? Do you know why?? We’re always curious to know how you find your cycle, so get in touch to chat with others in our Full Stop FB group, or if you have any questions you’d like us to answer, reach out on Instagram at @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalisedmenstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PMS supplements, and much more, delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox at a frequency you choose, to make it a bit easier to go with your flow.
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