Irregular menstruation: Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Oct 7, 2013 | Last Updated: Aug 11, 2018

Irregular Menstruation

An Overview

Menstruation occurs when a woman experiences vaginal bleeding every month. This bleeding is as a result of shedding of the thickened uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy. If fertilization fails to occur, the uterine lining is shed. The menstruation cycle is a perfectly normal occurrence in every woman in preparation for pregnancy. This cycle is controlled by female sexual hormones. Normal menstruation occurs between twenty one and thirty six days. The menstruation period normally lasts three to eight days with four days being considered ideal. Therefore, irregular menstruation is a phenomenon where the timing of a woman’s menstruation varies from the norm. This variation can be moderate or extreme.

What is Irregular Menstruation?

Irregular menstruation occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle is atypical in terms of the number of days between each cycle. Irregular menstruation tends to have variations from woman to woman with some having their periods twice a month while others only about four to nine times per year. Also, an erratic menstrual cycle which keeps shifting is considered as irregular menstruation. Irregular periods can occur in every woman once in a while, but if the phenomenon is often or during every menstrual cycle, there is a need to further explore and address the problem.

What are the Causes of Irregular Menstruation?

  • A history of ovarian problems such as hormone producing ovarian cysts
  • Side effect of certain medications such as anti-anxiety medication
  • High stress levels
  • Excessive exercising
  • Malnutrition
  • Eating disorders
  • Overproduction of prolactin due to prolactinoma
  • Anemia
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Menopause
  • Hyperthyroidism

The occasional irregular menstruation which every woman is prone to is caused by the following factors:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breast feeding
  • Travelling
  • Illness
  • Stress
  • Changing contraception methods

What are the Symptoms of Irregular Menstruation?

  • Consecutive periods that occur after less than twenty days
  • Consecutive periods that occur after more than thirty six days
  • Spotting
  • Erratic menstruation that is constantly changing
  • Abnormally heavy or abnormally light menses

The Stress Factor

High levels of stress can lead to irregular menstruation as it leads to hormonal imbalances. Stress affects hormone production in the adrenal glands leading to too much production of estrogen and progesterone. This wreaks havoc to a woman’s menstrual cycle. In today’s world, stress is inevitable. Therefore, to avoid getting irregular menstruation, learn how to manage stress.

How Does Irregular Menstruation Affect Female Sexual Health?

Irregular periods can negatively affect a woman’s sexual health. If a woman cannot predict when her periods will start and when her periods will end, this kind of uncertainty is bound to affect her sex life. In addition, irregular periods often indicate greater problems in a woman’s reproductive health. Women with irregular periods have been known to have fertility problems.

Treatment for Irregular Menstruation

  • Correcting the underlying medical condition that may be causing the problem such as hyperthyroidism and anemia
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Birth control pills can be prescribed to regulate menstruation
  • Changing contraception methods

Lifestyle changes and home remedies for irregular menstruation include the following:

  • Learn how to manage stress
  • Exercise less is you exercise excessively
  • Exercise more if you do not exercise enough
  • Learn to keep your weight under control to avoid sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Give up smoking
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Take lots of herbal, green or black tea
  • Eating raw papaya is said to normalize irregular periods
  • Sleeping in a completely dark room is also said to normalize the menstrual cycle though this is not backed by any scientific evidence
  • Black cohosh is an herb has also shown promising results in terms of treating irregular menstruation. Women with a history of liver problems are advised against using this herb.
  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink enough water daily


Irregular menstruation affects up to thirty percent of women. This problem can be both moderate and severe. Most of the time, treatment is not required. Irregular menstruation has been known to occur at the commencement of puberty and menopause and is considered normal during these times. However, for women who are trying to get pregnant, treatment may be required. A visit to your gynecologist will be very reassuring and helpful in terms of providing these women with a solution. In addition, making lifestyle choices that have a positive impact on your reproductive health is always recommended.

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