Irregular Periods: What Causes Them And Are They Harmful?
While for every woman menstruation isn’t a fun time of the month, they realise that it is an important process. When, one month, it suddenly doesn’t show, it highlights the importance even further. What are the causes of irregular periods and do they signify a problem? In order to understand why this happens, we need to have a good understanding of the menstrual cycle as a whole. During a woman’s fertile life, the eggs that are released in a menstrual cycle mature within the ovaries in a cycle that typically lasts 28 days. This does vary between women though. On day five of the cycle, about twenty eggs begin to mature in the follicles of the ovaries. Each follicle is like a small fluid-filled sac, and as day fourteen approaches one follicle has generally matured earlier than the others and releases an egg to be fertilised. The other follicles shrivel up and absorbed by the body again. But the mature follicle transforms into a corpus luteum, which produces the hormone progesterone to prepare the uterus for a fertilised egg. If the egg isn’t fertilised, it disintegrates and dies. And the corpus luteum also withers away. This leads to the uterus shedding its lining, which is the bleeding we associate with menstruation and periods.
A regular menstrual cycle means that the interval between periods is consistent, which as previously stated lasts around 28 days. It can however range from every 20 days to 35 days. An irregular menstrual cycle means that those intervals between periods varies each month, so sometimes they may be 28 days and others may be 20 or 30. Irregular periods are very common and there are a number of causes for this to happen. For example, in teenagers, it is the imbalance of hormones – it is normal for girls to experience irregular periods because of this or for a period to not arrive for a month. However, it is important to remember that a period not arriving is usually a sign of pregnancy, so if you’re sexually active then you should check that you’re not pregnant. The most common causes of irregular periods are eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia; excessive weight gain or weight loss, which can both lead to an irregular menstrual cycle or for periods to disappear completely; stress or emotional problems; hormonal problems such as thyroid malfunctions; travel; over exercising; breastfeeding; drugs such as birth control pills, or problems with pelvic organs.
Irregular periods or the stop of your menstruation can also be due to a condition called premature ovarian failure, which can lead to women stopping their periods before the age of 40. This can be because of a number of problems, including radiation, surgery or chemotherapy in the case of a woman with cancer. But if you don’t want to get pregnant and are sexually active, you should use a birth control device that you can trust so that you know irregular periods aren’t to do with pregnancy. But if your periods do stop for whatever reason, don’t think that you can’t get pregnant – you will still be at risk! It’s important to still use a contraceptive if you don’t want to get pregnant, such as a condom or the birth control pill. If you’re worried about your periods for any reason, or think that there may be something wrong, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible for advice and testing, if need be.
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