The length of the menstrual cycle is individual for each woman, being normally between 21 and 35 days, with an average of 28 days. Variations of a few days each month are not a cause for concern.
When the menstrual cycle is longer than 35-40 days, the condition is called oligomenorrhea.
WHAT CAUSES IRREGULAR MENSTRUATION?
It is possible that lifestyle changes such as stress, traveling or strenuous exercise can lead to irregular periods. Your cycle will usually normalize after you return to your normal routine. Rapid weight loss or gain also affects menstruation.
Teenage girls can also experience irregular periods during puberty.
Oligomenorrhea may be present after childbirth until the hormonal balance of the body is restored. Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation and during this period menstruation may not occur at all (lactational amenorrhea). We remind you that breastfeeding should not be used as a contraceptive.
Hormonal changes in perimenopause lead to a reduction of menstruations until they completely stop (menopause).
IRREGULAR MENSTRUATION AND HEALTH PROBLEMS
If you have had a regular period up to now and suddenly this has changed without an explanation, it is necessary to consult an obstetrician-gynecologist. Irregular periods are a symptom of conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometriosis or premature ovarian failure.
Endocrine disorders such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, as well as some hormone-secreting tumors (prolactinoma, etc.) are related to the length of the menstrual cycle.
IRREGULAR PERIODS AND PREGNANCY
Oligomenorrhea does not equal infertility. However, it may take longer to get pregnant.
For women with regular periods, it is easier to determine when ovulation occurs and, accordingly, the best time to try for a baby. This is almost impossible when there is no pattern in the lengths of your menstrual cycles.
The bigger problem, however, is when oligomenorrhea is accompanied by anovulatory cycles. These are menstrual cycles where ovulation doesn’t occur. Bleeding may occur, and is usually heavier or lighter than normal for the particular woman. Ovulatory disorders are one of the most common causes of infertility (about 30% of all cases).
Irregular periods are not necessarily a symptom of a serious problem. However, it is important to have your condition evaluated by an obstetrician-gynecologist. Depending on your personal priorities (pregnancy, contraception or other), you will be offered a plan of action.