Irregular periods can be a pain, both literally and metaphorically. It may feel like period irregularity is something that you just have to put up with, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on what is causing your irregular periods, there are things you can do to ease the symptoms and some techniques and treatments may help to regulate your period as well.
How to stop irregular periods
Before we get into how to tackle irregular periods, it’s important to know that they aren’t always bad. The term ‘irregular’ covers a wide range of symptoms, and they’re often nothing to worry about. Although some irregular periods may be caused by medical conditions, they can also be what’s normal for you. If you notice that your periods have recently changed or are consistently irregular you should contact your GP.
Now, let’s take a look at a few techniques you can use to try and regulate your periods.
If you have noticed that your periods have recently changed and become irregular, it could be caused by your body being under significant physical or mental stress. This can include, for example:
- Severe anxiety
- Traumatic events
- Excessive exercise
- Sudden weight loss or gain
This is because these events can cause hormonal imbalances that prevent your menstrual cycle from functioning as normal.
If your period irregularity is caused by physical or mental stress, then the first thing you should do is try to reduce that stress where possible. For example, self care and managing your mental health can help you to regulate your feelings, which may also help you to better handle bigger emotional stressors such as moving house or switching jobs.
Alternatively, if physical stress is the issue, you can start to improve this by taking a step back and assessing your physical needs and what you’re doing to meet them. Nutrition and activity levels can have an impact on your periods, so try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise every day.
If you need help with reducing mental and physical stress in your day-to-day life, your pharmacist or GP should be able to signpost you towards services that assist people with living healthier lifestyles. Even if you don’t think this is what’s causing your irregular periods, it’s worth giving it a go anyway. As well as potentially helping to regulate your periods, reducing physical and mental stress can also improve your quality of life and overall health and wellbeing.
Track your periods
Another thing you can do to try and lessen the impact of your period irregularity is to calculate your cycle length. You won’t get as accurate a result as you might if your periods were regular, but calculating your cycle length with irregular periods can help to give you an insight into when your period might be due and what it might be like.
In addition, consider tracking symptoms as well as just the days where you have a period. This can help you to notice patterns, which can make living with your period easier. Even if your period comes at different times each cycle, knowing what to expect once it’s actually started can ease some of the uncertainty around living with an irregular period.
Give it time
Sometimes, irregular periods are caused by temporary circumstances such as puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding or menopause. In each of these situations, hormonal changes in your body cause disruption to your menstrual cycle, which can lead to irregularity. In the case of pregnancy, some women experience light bleeding that can be mistaken for a late period - whereas it’s actually implantation bleeding caused by the fertilised egg implanting in the uterus.
Breastfeeding can also cause irregular periods, as the hormone that encourages milk production can prevent the production of the hormones that control your menstrual cycle. Your periods may not return until after you’ve started to reduce breastfeeding, and they may be more irregular afterwards.
Additionally, one of the first signs of perimenopause (the start of menopause) is your periods becoming irregular. This may last for several years before your periods eventually stop, and is usually accompanied by a range of other symptoms.
Hormonal contraceptives can also make your periods irregular when you first start taking them. Often, these symptoms go away after a few months as your body adjusts to taking contraception.
In each of these cases, your irregular periods will often ease once the underlying cause has gone away. For example, if pregnancy has caused irregularity, your periods should stop within the early stages of pregnancy, and irregularity caused by the menopause should result in your periods stopping altogether. However, if the irregularity doesn’t stop or it is having a severe impact on your daily life, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to help ease the symptoms.
When to see a doctor for irregular periods
Although many irregular periods have causes which aren’t anything to worry about, they can also be caused by medical conditions which require treatment, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). So how do you know whether or not your irregular periods need the attention of a doctor?
Well, if you’ve always had irregular periods, you know what is causing them, and they haven’t changed, it’s unlikely that you need to see a doctor. The same is true if you’re still going through puberty, as this is an expected cause of irregular periods. However, if you’re under 45 and your periods suddenly become irregular, this may be a sign that something is wrong. If you have always had irregular periods but never had them investigated, you should also see a doctor. Other warning signs include:
- Having cycles longer than 35 days a time
- Having cycles shorter than 21 days a time
- Having a difference of 20 days or more between the lengths of your shortest and longest cycles
- Having periods longer than seven days
These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong, but it’s a good idea to get a check up just in case. It’s also worth seeing a doctor about your irregular periods if you’re trying to get pregnant, this is because irregularities can sometimes be a sign of fertility issues. If your periods suddenly become irregular or you have any concerns about your periods you should always speak to your GP.