Get to know the common causes of irregular periods.
While most women aren’t exactly excited about menstruation, most realize the importance of this bleeding when, suddenly, one month it either doesn’t appear or it shows up when least expected. What’s going on when you have irregular periods? Or why do they suddenly stop? Let’s start by understanding the mechanics of the menstrual cycle.
During a woman's fertile life, the eggs mature within the ovaries in a cycle that typically lasts 28 days (this varies from woman to woman and even from period to period). On day five of the cycle, about twenty eggs start to mature in the follicles of the ovaries. Each of these follicles is like a tiny fluid-filled sac. As day fourteen approaches, one follicle has generally matured earlier than the others and releases its mature egg to be fertilized. What happens to the other follicles? They shrivel up and are reabsorbed by the body. But the mature follicle transforms into what is known as a "corpus luteum," which is responsible for producing the hormone progesterone to prepare the uterus to receive the fertilized egg.
If the egg is not fertilized, it disintegrates and dies. Likewise, the corpus luteum withers. This causes the uterus to shed its lining, the endometrium, causing the bleeding of menstruation.
Having irregular periods is very common. I see them in my practice all the time. The causes can range from something insignificant to something that requires treatment. For example, if you're a teen, your body's hormones can fluctuate and take some time until they find a balance. Therefore, it’s normal to have an irregular period during adolescence or, sometimes, for your period not to arrive in a given month.
But, before we get down to business, remember that the main cause for your period not to arrive is a pregnancy. So, if your period doesn’t arrive, check to make sure it’s not actually a baby on the way.
Now, let’s look at the most common causes of irregular periods:
Irregular periods or a stop of menstruation can be due to a condition called "premature ovarian failure" which causes a woman to stop having her period before age 40. This can be caused by radiation, surgery or chemotherapy, in the case of a woman with cancer.
Don’t forget that if you are sexually active and don’t want to get pregnant, you should use a birth control method you can trust so that irregular periods don’t bring you an unexpected surprise. Also, remember that even if your period goes away for a while, this does not mean you cannot become pregnant. You are still at risk! If you're not planning to have a baby, be careful!
And, as always, I recommend that you consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about what’s causing your irregular periods. That way you’ll be ahead of the game if it’s being caused by a serious condition that requires treatment. Remember, your health comes first!
This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.
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