Regular versus irregular menses
An average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but the range can be anywhere from 21-35 days. A period is usually 5 days but can be anywhere from 3-8 days. If the cycle is more than 35 days or less than 21 days, this suggests some ovulation abnormalities. Irregular or absent menstrual cycles and spotting between periods is also a sign of abnormality. Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual or that last more than 8 days are also a concern.
Types of irregular menses
Not every woman experiences the same type of menstrual irregularities. There are different types of menstrual irregularities, such as amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, menorrhagia, and metrorrhagia.
- Amenorrhea is the absence of periods.
- Dysmenorrhea is having painful periods.
- Menorrhagia is experiencing heavy menses.
- Metrorrhagia is having periods for more than 8 days.
- Oligomenorrhea means periods that occur after more than 35 days.
There is an importance for a woman to know what type of menstrual irregularity one experiences. This is because the treatment is different for each type; for example in some irregularities, anemia would be a concern.
What causes irregular periods?
There are several reasons for a woman to experience irregular menses. The reasons could be minor such as stress, changes in lifestyle, hormonal contraceptives, and medications. The serious reasons include ovulation disorders, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory diseases, uterine or cervical cancer, and polyps or fibroids. Ovulation disorders include polycystic ovarian disorder, premature ovarian insufficiency, and hypothalamic dysfunction. Previous ectopic pregnancies, endocrine disorders, or any past surgery of the abdomen or pelvis can also affect the menstrual cycle.
Diagnosis and treatment
A woman experiencing irregular periods will go through a detailed medical history, including the menstrual cycle and pelvic examination. Some blood tests are conducted to check for anemia and other possible medical conditions. Depending on the case, pelvic ultrasound and endometrial biopsy are conducted to rule out any possible medical disorder. The treatment varies, but hormonal treatments are usually given and iron pills in the case of anemia. Sometimes, surgery is an option for example, in the case of severe fibroids.
Although some reasons for irregular periods cannot be controlled, there are some preventive measures one can try. Preventive measures to consider include maintaining a healthy diet, physical exercise, reducing stress, and avoiding alcohol and smoking. Also, getting a regular check-up is essential, and consulting with the doctor for any medications or birth control pills taken. Getting advice from a doctor is recommended if a woman is experiencing any type of irregular menses.
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