Illustration of an anxious woman on a pink background - Libresse

Cycle, flow and period – these are all words that make menstruation sound regular as clockwork.

But at one time or another, most of you will experience irregular periods. Should you be concerned? We answer the most commonly asked questions.

What qualifies as an irregular period?

Irregular bleeding can mean many things. It could be that you’ve started bleeding earlier or later than usual. You could be experiencing unusually light bleeding or a heavier than normal flow. Or it can mean the absence of your period (amenorrhea) or having two periods in one month (metrorrhagia).

Is it normal to be irregular?

If you’ve only just started your period and you’re irregular, relax. It’s normal to be irregular for the first few years. Your ovulation hasn’t regulated itself properly yet. As it does, your period will become more predictable. Most women will have had an irregular period at least once or twice in their lifetime.

Can stress cause irregular periods?

Absolutely. In fact, it’s common for stress to take its toll on your period. You might have started at a new school or job. You might have problems with your love life or have had a family argument. Or you might even be excited over a holiday, wedding or house move. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol. Too much of it in your bloodstream can interfere with how much oestrogen and progesterone hormones your body produces. And this can interfere with your period cycle. Stress isn’t the only factor though. Other causes of irregular periods include weight gain, malnutrition, excessive exercise, hormone imbalances, contraceptives, pregnancy and menopause.

Can you get your period more than once a month?

Bleeding twice or more in a month is thought to be due to a hormone imbalance. Frequent or irregular periods can also be the sign of a medical problem or an infection, and too much bleeding can result in anaemia, an iron deficiency. Visit your doctor to find out if you need treatment.

Can childbirth cause irregular periods?

When your body goes through childbirth, it experiences a change in hormone levels. And when your hormone levels are upset, it’s normal to experience absence of menstruation. Also, breastfeeding can cause periods to stop completely and they might not resume until you have stopped. This doesn’t mean you’re not ovulating though. You’re still able to get pregnant, so you should use condoms for birth control (the contraceptive pill isn’t recommended for women who have just given birth). When your period starts again, it might be lighter and shorter, or longer and heavier than it was before. This is common in new mothers.

Should I do anything about an irregular period?

Don’t be alarmed about irregular periods. Your period cycle should go back to normal on its own or with a few simple lifestyle changes. But if you have irregular periods for longer than three months, consult a doctor. It’s a good idea to keep track of the length and frequency of your periods. And if you’re worried about a period taking you by surprise, always have a pad or two with you. Just in case.

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