Most women learn to live with irregular periods.
It can't be THAT serious right?
Well actually, specialists are now starting to recognize a woman's period as the 5th vital sign. They now acknowledge that irregular periods can be an early indication of more serious underlying health conditions.
Kick back and listen to the 10 most common causes of irregular periods!
Welcome back to Beauty in Balance, Episode 11!
I hope things are going well with you and that you’re still learning more about your body and yourself every day. One of my emotions for the year is to be intrigued, to stay curious. About my body, my mental health, my past and about others and their life stories.
It helps me to become more empathetic and to become a better version of myself.
There are so many discoveries I’ve made this week and it feels so rewarding to get to know myself at such a deeper level all the time.
And I want to invite you, if you feel that this podcast has helped you to do the same, maybe you can share it with a friend or family member that might be in need of change and wellness. In that way, you can help me to reach as many women as I can with a message of hope….
Now, if you’re in your 30s or 40s, it’s likely that you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing some hormonal imbalance. And if this is the case, you might be experiencing irregular periods.
The definition of irregular periods is when your cycle is shorter than 24 days or longer than 38 days or if the length varies from month to month. The medical term for this is oligomenorrhea.
There are certain instances where a slight variation from month to month would be normal, such as during puberty, breastfeeding or when you’re approaching menopause.
But then there are other factors that may contribute to irregular periods and we’ll look a little closer at that today.
The bottom line of irregular periods is that there are hormones that are out of balance, such as estrogen, progesterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These are the 3 main hormones responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and if something disrupts the rise and fall of these hormones during each cycle, it can cause irregular periods.
The most common causes of this disruption includes stress, endurance exercise, regular high intensity exercise, weight loss, lack of nutritious food or the use of hormonal birth control.
Persistent irregularity may be a sign of an underlying condition and it’s for this reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises health practitioners to consider periods as the fifth vital sign, alongside body temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
So, let’s get into the 9 most common reasons why periods may be irregular.
Number 1: Firstly, during puberty, the body undergoes significant changes and it can take several years for the hormones that regulate periods to fall into a reliable pattern. During this time, it is common to have irregular periods. It is really important during these developmental years that girls learn to understand their body and how to look after it. If healthy practices are put into place from early on, hormonal imbalance will be unlikely or when they occur, these girls will intuitively know what the symptoms mean and how to deal with it. But during puberty, it can sometimes take up to 4 years for hormonal pathways to establish and periods to become regular.
The second potential cause for irregular periods is hormonal changes after pregnancy and during breastfeeding. It is also normal to have absent or irregular periods, as the hormones take time to return to a normal rhythm. Breastfeeding, especially exclusive and frequent breastfeeding can suppress ovulation, which will cause periods and cervical mucus to stop. Even when breastfeeding stops, it can take several months for your hormone production to get back into a normal rhythm, so it give it some time. For me personally, this took about 4 months and this is also when I suddenly lost all my pregnancy weight which was stuck for about 9 months.
It can be really easy to be hard on yourself post pregnancy. Your body will look and feel very different, but it is important that you give yourself credit for the wonderful miraculous event that had just happened within your body. Be kind to yourself and practice good selfcare during these months.
Number 3: Menopause.
Periods will become irregular in the years and months leading up to menopause as hormone levels naturally start to fall. Periods can get further and further apart until they eventually stop and menopause is defined as not having a peirod in the last 12 months.
The fourth reason that periods can become irregular, is when you stop using hormonal birth control, as it will take time for your body’s hormonal cycle to begin to work normal. Remember that when you use hormonal birth control, although you may be experiencing regular bleeding, this is not classed as a normal period, but rather breakthrough bleeds.
After stopping hormonal birth control it can take anywhere between 2-4 weeks for the first bleed to occur and it can take 3-6 months for your cycle to settle into a regular pattern and in some cases, depending on how long you’ve been using it and at what age you started using it, it can take even longer than this.
If you’ve experienced irregular periods before starting hormonal birth control, you are likely to return to having irregular cycles after you stop, as the root cause would not have been addressed. Using hormonal birth control for irregular, painful or heavy periods is merely a bandaid and does not address the root cause. So I highly recommend, if you are still on birth control and have started it because of any other reason than contraception, that you consider investigating the root cause of those symptoms.
Number 5: polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS,
This is a condition where small cysts develop on the ovaries and high levels of testosterone is produced, which can prevent or delay ovulation, resulting in absent or irregular periods. PCOS is pretty common amongst women and if you are concerned about this, I highly recommend you discuss this with your healthcare provider.
PCOS is characterised by irregular or no periods, difficulty getting pregnant, excessive hair growth (usually in the face, chest or back), weight gain, thinning hair and hair loss, oily skin or acne and insulin resistance.
I wana let you know dear friend, if you’ve been struggling with the effects of PCOS, there are natural ways that you can relieve the symptoms and improve your hormone health. You don’t need to live with the condition for the rest of your life.
Number 6: eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders.
Severe undernutrition will lead to reduced or no production of important hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and can have very severe health consequences, such as heart disease, osteoporosis and much more.
Another thing to consider here, is that not necessarily eating disorders only will affect your menstrual cycle. If you eat enough calories, but your diet is not balanced and doesnt provide the building blocks for hormones, this will also affect your menstrual cycle and period. So it is important to see every meal as an opportunity to nourish, and nourishing your body is an act of selfcare. It is critically important.
Number 7: Excessive exercise
Now excessive exercise is not necessarily running 30k every day as you may think.
Not that very long ago I also fell into this category.
For 10 years, I was a very committed crossfitter.
I did crossfit about 5 times a week and really loved it. I never thought that this was an unhealthy habit. I was not obsessed with it, it was just the type of exercise that I enjoyed and did every day.
But it turned out that the ongoing high intensity exercise really messed up my hormones and led to significant hormone imbalance and significant health issues.
Exercise should be restorative. There are times that high intensity is good, but then there are times that you may need a walk or other restorative exercise.
You need to understand your body and know when what type of exercise is appropriate.
Number 8: Endometriosis.
This condition is so much more common than I ever thought! And what is more common and concerning, is the number of hysterectomies performed on women in their 30s and early 40s, which in this case, is just a bandaid for the problem.
I’m not saying surgery is always wrong, but endometriosis can be addressed naturally way before we get to the stage where surgery is necessary.
Endo is a condition in which cells that usually grow inside the uterus, grow outside of it and this causes significant pain, heavy periods, bleeding between periods and problems getting pregnant and the most common cause of endo is chronic low levels of progesterone.
So if the symptoms of your persistent hormone imbalace are surgically removed, but the root cause is not addressed, in other words, we don’t address the low levels of progesterone, it will eventually present as something else, after the hysterectomy has been performed.
Endo is yet another way of your body communicating. At this stage, it is screaming at you.
Pay attention to the subtle and sometimes loud messages and then figure out what it is that your body needs.
And Number 9: Thyroid disease
The thyroid produces hormones that affect metabolism, heart rate, and other basic functions. It also helps control the timing of ovulation and periods.
Thyroid disease can make periods heavy or light and can make them more or less frequent. It can also in some cases cause ovulation to stop.
And lastly, number 10 - something we are ALL exposed to… Stress.
Please don’t underestimate the effects of stress on your body. It sets off hormonal cascades that will affect you on many different levels. And your period may be the very first place where you’ll witness it’s effects.
Have you thought about stress management practices that work effectively for you? Do you even notice when you are stressed? I truly believe that the beginning of health is self-awareness. If we are not aware of a problem, how can we even think about addressing it. Sometimes, as mums, we tend to just put everything and everyone else before ourselves. We dismiss the signals our bodies are giving us. Don’t let this be you friend. Selfcare is the cornerstone of caring for others. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t have anything to give to the people you love.
I want to draw your attention to how irregular periods can be an early indication of some underlying health issues.
Initially they may not appear significant, but if ignored, may develop into some significant health issues.
Irregular periods are generally an indication of hormones that are not balanced.
It is a message from your body telling you to stop and pay attention.
This is why it is important to track your menstrual cycle. When you start to notice some consistent irregularities, it’s time to get some help to identify the root cause, which may be something like thyroid function declining.
A good place to start would be to ask your doctor to perform some comprehensive blood tests to rule out some of the conditions that I’ve just mentioned.
And then most importantly, irrespective of what the blood tests reveal, you should start investigating what your body is trying to communicate with you. Sometimes, blood tests may come back as within the normal ranges, but those normal ranges are not necessarily the right numbers for YOUR body. So paying attention to signs and symptoms, along with blood results will help you to get a better understanding of what’s right for you.
I guess what I really want you to take from this episode today, is that although irregular periods may be very common, it doesn't mean it’s normal.
If you are experiencing any persistent irregular periods, there could be so many causes for this, like the ones I mentioned here today. In fact, there are many more potential causes for an irregular period.
What I hope you’ll do today, is be honest with yourself. And stop convincing yourself that ‘it’s probably nothing’.
If your periods are irregular, there is something underlying and you need to try and find what it is.
If you need more help in this area, you can reach out to me, I would so love to hear from you.
You can head to my website at www.vandghie.com to get in touch. You can also find the link in the show notes of this episode.
As always my dearest friend, do not see your body separate from every other aspect of your life. Everything will affect your physical health and your period is a good diagnostic tool to evaluate how you are doing at all levels.
Thanx for joining me again today and if you’ve recently had a discussion with your girlfriends about how unpredictable your period has become, please share this episode with them.
Until next time my friend, I’ll see you then.