Menstruation, often known as a period, is the normal vaginal bleeding that happens as part of a woman's monthly cycle. Every month, the body prepares for pregnancy and if the pregnancy does not take place, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. Menstrual blood is made up of both blood and tissue from inside the uterus. It leaves the body via the vagina.
The start of menstruation, called as menarche is around the age 11 to 14 years and goes on until women reach menopause, the age when she stops getting her periods completely, i.e. around 45 to 50 years of age. A normal menstrual cycle lasts of 5 to 6 days with a minimum gap of 24 days and maximum gap of 35 days between two menstrual cycles.
Irregular periods, also known as oligo-menorrhea, can be caused by a variety of factors such as hormonal imbalances, stress, weight changes, and certain medical conditions. Few changes in the monthly cycles during and around menarche and menopause are normal, but if the periods are irregular continuously, then it is a case of oligomenorrhea.
In oligomenorrhea, it is difficult to predict and track the period cycle. While normal periods occur 12 times a year, irregular periods may occur only 6 to 8 cycles per year. It can be defined as menstrual cycles that vary by more than 7 days in length, or cycles that take more than 35 days to occur. It is majorly associated with PCOS. About 70% to 80% of women suffering from PCOS experience irregular periods as one of the symptoms. Know more about PCOS here.
What are the causes of Oligomenorrhea?
There are many potential causes of irregular periods. Some common causes include:
Hormonal imbalances: Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid disorders can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body and lead to irregular periods.
Weight changes: Significant weight loss or gain can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body and affect the regularity of menstrual cycles.
Stress: High levels of stress can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body and lead to irregular periods.
Certain medications: Certain medications, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, can affect the regularity of menstrual cycles.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can affect the regularity of menstrual cycles.
Perimenopause and menopause: As women approach menopause, hormonal changes can lead to irregular periods. Know more about menopause here.
It's important to have a conversation with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your irregular periods, and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
What are the symptoms of Oligomenorrhea?
Symptoms of irregular periods can vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:
Infrequent periods: Experiencing cycles that occur less frequently than every 28 days.
Longer or shorter cycles: Menstrual cycles that vary by more than 7 days in length.
Light or heavy bleeding: The duration and amount of bleeding can also vary from person to person.
Abdominal pain or cramping: Some people may experience pain or cramping before or during their period.
Ovarian cysts: Women with irregular periods may develop ovarian cysts, which can cause abdominal pain or discomfort.
Other symptoms: Some people may experience other symptoms such as: Breast tenderness, Headaches, Acne, Vaginal discharge, Hot flashes, Excessive hair growth on body and face.
It's important to note that some women may not experience any symptoms at all and irregular periods may be identified during a routine visit with a healthcare provider. It is important to speak with a gynecologist if you are experiencing any symptoms or if you are concerned about the regularity of your menstrual cycles.
What are the ways to prevent Oligomenorrhea?
Treatment and prevention of irregular periods will depend on the underlying cause. Some common ways include:
Lifestyle changes: Making changes to diet and exercise habits can help regulate hormones and improve the regularity of menstrual cycles. At the same time, cutting down on alcohol consumption and smoking as it disrupts the hormonal balance in the body causing a number of problems. Getting a good sleep is also one of the important factors that help in achieving regular menses.
Diet modification: Making some changes in daily diet can help in regulating the menstrual cycle. Increasing the amount of folate, iron and other micronutrients can help in increasing the blood flow. A balance of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats is required to maintain a healthy and functioning system and regulate hormonal balance.
Exercise regularly: Being active helps in giving the body the necessary exercise it requires to regulate the hormones efficiently and achieving a regular menstrual cycle as well as a better functioning system.
Reduce stress: Stress is one of the reasons that causes changes in the monthly cycles. Mental as well as physical stress can both be a contributing factors for delayed or irregular periods. Try reducing stress by sharing stress causing matters with a loved one, indulging in self-care activities, practicing yoga, and meditation.
Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove ovarian cysts or other growths that are causing irregular periods.
Hormonal therapy: Hormonal therapy such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can be used to regulate the hormones in the body and regulate the menstrual cycle. Consult with your GP before consumption.
Supplementation: Take the right supplements that help in rectifying the irregular periods and improve overall health.
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