The problem with irregular menstrual cycles

It is easy to ignore irregularities if that is what we are used to experiencing, but an irregular cycle is a symptom of imbalance that needs to be noticed.

What is a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle length?

The ideal cycle length is 28/29 days. A couple of days either side is considered acceptable, but fluctuations more than a couple of days raises questions. The female body is designed perfectly to cycle through the month with hormonal changes that ebb and flow. These changes have far reaching effects in the body and there are many factors that could disturb this.

Even if your cycle is only sometimes out, it is best to investigate and understand why any irregularities are occurring.  Is it just hormones making your cycle irregular or are there other reasons?  If it is hormones, how do you know and how do you correct this balance? 

The cyclical nature of our body

A women’s menstrual cycle reflects the internal and external world of biochemistry, hormones, nature and the rhythms of life.  Just as our circadian rhythms, that are regulated by exposure to the changes in light and sleep/wake cycles, reflect the changes in our sun, it is believe that our menstrual cycles reflect the moons cycle.   It is no coincidence that the moon phase cycle is 29 days long.    In fact, a study done in 2021 agreed that human menstrual cycles may once have been synchronized with the lunar cycle, but that artificial light and modern lifestyles have disrupted that link.

It is also known that changes in hormonal activity such as what happens with stress, can also affect the female cycle. 

With this in mind, we can understand that modern living can impact our hormonal chemistry and natural rhythms adding to the challenge of keeping a regular menstrual cycle.

 Cycle irregularities in young women

Younger females who have just begun menstruating may not have fully established connection and communication with their hormonal system and so ovulation processes may take longer than for those with an established cycle. In these early months, it is perfectly normal for cycles to be delayed or irregular. Menstrual flow might also be light or short (2 days or less).

If however the delayed menstruation continues beyond the first year or two, then other causes should be investigated such as:

  • Stress:  such as trauma, high anxiety, falling love, relationship break up, study stress, illness, irregular sleep patterns
  • Poor nutrition: Commonly an issue in girls who are eating restrictively or just making poor choices.
  • PCOS – Polycystic ovarian syndrome. This needs to be investigate with a health practitioner.

 Cycle irregularities in older women

As women enter the perimenopausal phase, which can start in a women’s 40s-50s (or sometimes younger), hormone levels start changing.  The diminishing numbers of ovum and the increasing difficulty for the pituitary hormones to stimulate ovulation can lead to both longer and shorter cycles.

Irregularities, heavy bleeding, extended bleeding or other menstrual symptoms should be investigated with your health practitioner.  Naturopath's can offer many options to help stabilise the body through hormonal changes and prevent symptoms.

Other reasons to consider for irregular cycles

  • Pregnancy – worth checking!
  • Hormonal contraceptives - the periods people have on hormonal contraception are not real period, and infact mask or supress the natural cycle.  If you experience episodes of irregualr bleeding you please consult with you doctor.
  • Excessive exercise 
  • Cycle syncing – if females live with or a close with other females, it is not uncommon for cycles to sync
  • A diagnosable issue such as: PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome or Endometriosis

What should you do if you have cycle irregularities?

A good place to start is using a cycle tracker app.  This provides an easy way to track not only menstrual bleeding or spotting patterns but also other symptoms such as moods, cervical mucous changes and PMS symptoms that can provide clues to what the problem might be. 

If you do find you cycle is significantly irregular, then seeing a health professional is the next import step.

With so many influences and contributing factors to irregular cycles, a Naturopath’s holistic approach is valuable.  We can offer a range of hormonal testing that can include blood, saliva or urine testing to shed light on what is happening and can utilise a gentle approach to correcting imbalances through diet, lifestyle, scientifically validated herbal medicine or therapeutic nutritional supplement.   Contact me to find out more

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