An abnormal menstrual cycle (also referred to as irregular periods or abnormal uterine bleeding) happens when your period goes beyond the normal range even when you’re not pregnant, breastfeeding, or experiencing menopause.
The normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, although those that range from 21 to 35 days are still considered normal. If you’re not sure how long your menstrual cycle lasts, you can take note of the last day of your previous period and the first day of your next period.
Count the number of days in between them, then repeat the process for the next three months. If there are less than 21 days or more than 35 in between your periods, you’re considered to have an abnormal menstrual cycle. This is also the case if you miss a period three or more times in a row.
Ideally, the number of days in between each period should be the same. For instance, if there are 28 days between your January and February periods, there should also be 28 days between your February and March periods as well as your March and April periods. If the number varies from one month to another, it’s a sign that you have an irregular period.
Your period could last for over 6 months if you have prolonged or chronic heavy bleeding or severe and sudden bleeding. The causes of prolonged or severe inconsistencies might be caused by a number of reasons.
It’s important to note that an abnormal menstrual cycle doesn’t always indicate a problem. However, in many cases, having irregular periods is a sign that you have an underlying health condition.
What Are the Causes of an Abnormal Menstrual Cycle?
Irregular periods can be caused by a wide range of factors. We’ve listed some of them below:
Hyperprolactinemia, in which the body produces too much of the prolactin hormone, can also disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that affects the uterus and other parts of the genital tract. Irregular periods are just one sign of PID; it can also cause fevers, bleeding in between periods, heavy and smelly vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, and painful urination.
Problems with the ovaries
Anything that affects the ovaries can also affect your menstrual cycle. Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, for example, causes your ovaries to produce higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and lower levels of estrogen than normal.
The latter is the primary hormone that helps develop the uterine lining (the blood that goes out of your body when you have your period), so low estrogen levels can lead to irregular menstrual cycles.
Premature ovarian insufficiency, in which the ovaries stop functioning normally due to chemotherapy or genetic disposition, can also cause an abnormal menstrual cycle.
Some medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants and antipsychotic tranquilizers, can affect your menstrual cycle. If you’re taking these medications and experiencing irregular periods, talk to your doctor to see if there are any alternatives you can try to make your menstrual cycle normal again.
Hormonal contraceptives such as oral contraceptive pills, injections, intrauterine device, intrauterine system devices and hormone replacement therapy can have an effect on your cycle.
These are tumors that develop on the walls of your uterus. They’re usually benign (not cancerous), but they can still cause a wide range of problems like lower back pain, frequent urination, and enlargement of the lower abdomen.
Uterine fibroids usually don’t affect your menstrual cycle (even though they can cause heavy bleeding and painful periods), but the drugs used to treat them can affect your cycle. These drugs reduce the amount of estrogen in your body, causing you to have irregular periods and maybe even stop your menstruation for a few months.
You could have a problem if a fertilized egg lodges inside the fallopian tube and not the uterine lining.
This can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, which we already mentioned, or chlamydia.
Abnormal menstrual cycle can be caused by induced labor or miscarriage.
This is a condition where the cells lining the uterus attach and grows elsewhere inside the body, including on the ovarian surface or outside the uterus.
Other causes include polyps, which are tiny stalk-like projections growing from the uterus lining as well as bleeding disorders such as Von Willebrand’s disease and leukemia.
What Should You Do If You Have an Abnormal Menstrual Cycle?
As mentioned above, an abnormal menstrual cycle or irregular period is generally not a big problem, but it can indicate that you have a health complication. If you’re experiencing irregular periods, you can try to encourage a regular menstrual cycle by improving your lifestyle.
Keep stress at a minimum, exercise on a regular basis (without going overboard with your workouts), and eat healthy meals that include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as sources of protein and good fat. Doing these can help your body heal itself and hopefully bring your menstrual cycle back to normal.
Another solution to consider for irregular menstrual cycle would be a natural progesterone cream.
If you’ve taken the steps above but you still have an abnormal menstrual cycle, and/or if your irregular periods are accompanied by pain, heavy bleeding, and other symptoms, you need to visit your physician right away.
He or she will put you through diagnostic tests to determine what’s causing your cycle to be irregular and inform you about the possible solutions to this underlying medical problem. You can then go on the proper treatment program to regain your health, improve your reproductive system, and make your menstrual cycle normal.