In this article:
Menstrual disorders are common worldwide and they affect the general health of the female population.
A missed period may be due to normal causes such as pregnancy or continued use of birth control pills. Other than these, any other reasons for a missed period or irregular periods are a cause for concern.
Common Causes of Missed and Irregular Periods
Some of the causes of irregular periods are:
1. Thyroid problems
Thyroid disorders are the cause of a large number of menstrual abnormalities. A study reported that 44% of women with menstrual abnormalities such as irregular periods had thyroid problems.
Hypothyroidism is associated with menstrual irregularity, whereas hyperthyroidism delays the onset of menses. (1)
Under conditions of high stress, the brain shuts down the production of estrogen and other reproductive hormones. Thus, stress affects the hormonal balance of the body, disrupting ovulation and causing irregular periods.
A study reported a correlation between stress and menstrual irregularities. (2) Another study that included medical students in Saudi Arabia reported that 91% of the students had menstrual abnormalities associated with high stress. (3)
Although regular exercise is associated with many health benefits such as improvements in cardiovascular function, decreased fat, and insulin sensitivity, overexercise can harm the body. One of the harmful effects of overexercising is menstrual irregularities.
A study conducted on Korean women and reported in Medicine showed that irregular periods resulted from overexercise in the participants. This was attributed to the failure to suitably compensate for energy lost during exercise by increasing dietary intake. (4)
4. Body fat
Abody mass index (BMI) that is either too high (>25) or too low (<18) can affect the production of hormones necessary for ovulation. Such a hormonal imbalance can lead to irregular periods.
In a study, a low BMI and a high BMI both led to irregular periods in adolescent Indian girls in comparison to a normal BMI (between 17 and 22). (5)
Hence, maintain an ideal BMI by consuming a balanced diet.
5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Irregular menstruation is associated with PCOS, according to a study published in Human Reproduction Reports. It was also found that there was an excess of androgens in the adolescent years of those subjects who later on develop PCOS and infertility. (6)
Research in pregnant animals and humans has shown that caffeine increases uterine vascular resistance and reduces uterine blood flow. Caffeine may affect the sex hormones, which could in turn affect the menstrual cycle.
In a study, the use of caffeine has been associated with menstrual abnormalities such as prolonged bleeding and irregular periods. (7)
Alcohol influences the levels and circulation of sex hormones. Women addicted to alcohol frequently experience anovulation, which leads to irregular menstruation. (8)
Smoking is associated with an increased risk of menstrual abnormalities.
A study published in BMJ has reported a correlation of irregular and long menstrual cycles in adolescence and adulthood with premature death. This relation is stronger in women who smoke. (9)
9. Diet and lifestyle
Eating junk food, skipping breakfast, and having less physical activity lead to irregular menstrual cycles due to the altered hormonal balance in the body.
A study that included adolescents reported that 70.3% of the girls reported irregular menstruation due to the regular consumption of junk food. (10)
10. Shift work
Working in shifts alters sleep patterns, and exposure to light at night alters physiologic functions and the functioning of the biological clock. These effects lead to the disruption of the menstrual cycle and irregularity in periods. (11)
Most-Asked Questions About Irregular Periods
How many days of delay is considered an irregular period?
Your periods are considered irregular if you have periods more often than every 21 days or less often than every 35 days. Periods that last longer than 7 days are also considered irregular periods.
Generally, at what age do irregular periods start?
Usually, irregular periods start at perimenopause, also called the menopausal transition. This stage is when women start having irregular periods. Women start perimenopause at different ages, sometime in their 40s, but some women notice changes as early as their mid-30s.
At the onset of periods, it is quite normal to have an irregular menstrual cycle. In most normal women, the periods become regular eventually.
However, some women never develop a regular menstrual cycle. Under such circumstances, consult a good gynecologist to check the underlying cause of the irregularity and seek suitable treatment.
- Was this article helpful?
- YES, THANKS!NOT REALLY