Growing up you are taught that once you begin your period you will become part of a natural monthly rhythm all women experience. This rhythm is considered sacred. Here’s the thing with rhythm though, it is consistent, like clockwork, but often women’s menstrual cycles aren’t. They are easily bumped off track by stress, weight changes, lifestyle changes or underlying health problems and fertility-health issues. So, while we grow up thinking that our menstrual cycles will be rhythmic, when they aren’t it can be really confusing. How do you get this natural, cyclical body process back on track?
As women, we have the basic understanding of the menstrual cycle down. The average cycle is around 28 – 30 days long and the average period about 5 days. This will happen month after month, from puberty through menopause. What we don’t have a basic understanding of, is how irregular menstrual periods happen and what can be done about them.
Irregular periods are one of the most asked about subjects regarding women’s fertility health. It is high time we cover this so that if this should ever happen to you (more than likely it will happen more than once in your life), you will know how to handle it with finesse.
How to Know if You Have Irregular Periods:
- You lose more or less blood than you are used to during your period
- The number of days that your period lasts varies significantly from cycle to cycle
- The number of days between each of your periods changes, or varies greatly
Types of Irregular Periods:
- frequent periods
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- absent period (amenorrhea)
- prolonged bleeding
- changing menstrual period length
- light menstrual bleeding
- mid-cycle spotting
Causes of Irregular Periods and Possible Natural Solutions
Hormonal changes are the number one reason irregular periods happen. Many things can disrupt the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.
Puberty – As a developing girl’s adolescent body begins menstruating, it can take some time for the body to “get the hang of” producing hormones in sync with the natural menstrual cycle rhythm. This typically regulates over time.
Possible solution: Give it time! It is best to let the body naturally figure out how to regulate the menstrual cycle on its own. If irregular cycles persist, see a gynaecologist to determine the cause. Should you desire a natural approach to resolve the issue, it is best to see a naturopathic doctor, someone who can monitor you over time and offer natural remedies at the right dose.
Perimenopause – As hormone levels that sustain a woman’s fertility begin to decline in production (in preparation for menopause), the menstrual cycle begins to change, not only in length, but in frequency and amount of menses.
Possible solution: Menopause is part of a woman’s natural aging process and it is completely normal to experience irregular menstrual cycles as a woman moves through perimenopause and menopause. If you are looking for natural therapies to help with this transition, we find the website www.womentowomen.com very helpful.
Birth control use – Many hormonal birth control options contain hormones that alter the menstrual cycle, so that you don’t get pregnant. Even after discontinuing the use, it can take a year or more for the menstrual cycle to regulate once again.
A note about IUDs – Many women report an absent or irregular menstrual cycle with use of this type of birth control.
Possible solution: If your menstrual cycle is irregular due to current use of a birth control device or medication, the only way to see if this will resolve is to discontinue the use of BC. If your menstrual cycle is irregular or absent since discontinuing birth control, we have a great article on How to Balance Your Hormones After Birth Control that has tried and true tips on getting your cycle back on track.
Health issues – There are many health issues that directly impact reproductive health that are associated with hormonal imbalance and are known to disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Click on the health issue you are experiencing to be taken to a detailed guide for natural therapies specific to that issue. The guide will help to address your menstrual health in relation to that reproductive health issue.
Stress – High levels of stress can alter normal hormonal balance and make a period become irregular or cease.
Possible solution: Create a stress reduction plan starting today! If you do not lower your stress levels, the irregular periods may persist.
Excessive exercise – Too much exercise has been shown to cause an absent period, but it can also cause menstrual cycle irregularities.
Possible solution: Everyone should be exercising regularly, but if you are physically training for a sports event, obsessed with working out all the time, or just pushing your body to its limits with too much physical activity, an absent menstrual cycle may occur. The solution here is really simple… reduce the amount of physical activity. If your cycle still hasn’t regulated, there are a variety of herbs that can help to encourage regular menstrual cycles once again.
Herbs that come to mind that are good for this issue are: Maca (Lepidium meyenii) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), both of which are adaptogens. Adaptogen herbs help the body handle and recover from physical stress like exercise. They also support hormonal balance.
Being sedentary – Just as too much activity can affect menstrual health, so too can too little activity.
Possible solution: This seems obvious right, but in this case it may take a little more than just beginning to exercise. Self Fertility Massage is a great way to “reawaken” the reproductive organs. If that alone isn’t doing it, FertiliCare Phase 1 & 2 contain herbs to promote menstrual cycle regulation.
Understanding the right amount of exercise for optimal fertility, when both too little and too much can be detrimental, is important. To help you understand, we offer the guide Exercise and Infertility: The Goldilocks Conundrum.
Other possible causes:
Abnormal structure of the uterus – Some women are born with an abnormality of the uterus. Though this is rare, it can cause irregular periods.
Possible solution: Typically, depending on what the structural issue is, surgery may be suggested.
Asherman’s syndrome – This rare condition is characterized by the development of severe scarring (adhesions) on the internal walls of the uterus.
Possible solution: Depending on the severity, doctor’s will typically suggest surgical removal of the adhesions. Again, the extent of damage to the uterus matters here, but we have encouraging tips to help the body heal uterine adhesions naturally here…
Getting the Menstrual Cycle Back on Track
Because there are many different causes of an irregular period, it can be challenging to offer a one-size-fits-all approach. That is why working with a healthcare practitioner to help you first determine the cause is best. Then, after that we urge you to learn about natural ways to regulate the menstrual cycle. These natural options are supportive of the body’s natural function and do not contain hormones which can confuse the body even more.
3 General Guidelines to Help Keep Your Period Regular
1. See a doctor to determine what may be causing the irregular periods.
2. Address your nutrition levels. Sometimes all it takes to bring back the menstrual cycle is to feed your body a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and to supplement with a whole food multivitamin.
3. Make sure your reproductive organs are getting adequate circulation.
I hope this helps you see what direction to go in, depending on what is causing your period to be irregular. Should you need further guidance or have more questions, please contact us!
WebMD. Women’s Health. Treating Irregular Periods. Retrieved online from: http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/treating-irregular-periods