Read below about irregular period, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your irregular period from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Irregular Period Symptoms

To get a bit technical, a woman's period, also known as menstruation or a menstrual cycle, is the shedding of blood and tissue from the uterine lining through the vagina in the absence of pregnancy. Menstruation usually occurs every 21 to 35 days; however, the definition of a "regular period" is different for every woman.

In order to identify the features of your regular, normal period, take note of the following characteristics and patterns:

  • Duration : How long does your period usually last?
  • Quality of flow: How many times do you change your pad or tampon within a day? What type of sanitary protection do you use: Light? Medium? Heavy?
  • Pain: Is there pain associated with your cycle?
  • Other changes: Do you experience changes in mood or behavior during your cycle?

An irregular period is any cycle that strays from your regular pattern.

For example, an irregular period may be associated with the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than usual
  • Bleeding that is lighter or heavier than normal flow
  • Bleeding that occurs between expected periods OR when you are not expecting a period
  • Bleeding that occurs during a time in your life when it is not expected – such as before puberty, during pregnancy or after menopause (which is defined as 12 or more consecutive months without a menstrual period).

In addition to these changes, some people may also notice irregular period symptoms and signs such as:

The ability to recognize patterns of bleeding that fall outside of your regular period is very important. Seek medical care and follow up with your doctor if you experience irregular period symptoms.

Irregular Period Causes Overview

Since the causes of an irregular period are broad and varied, it is important to see your doctor to get the appropriate diagnosis

Central causes

The menstrual cycle is controlled by a complex system of chemicals and messenger hormones that come from structures in the brain. These structures, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, work in conjunction to stimulate the ovaries and regulate the menstrual cycle. Dysfunction in these central structures can result in irregular periods.

  • Intrinsic: Intrinsic causes, as in problems within the hypothalamus and pituitary themselves, will inevitably lead to irregular periods.
  • Extrinsic: Outside forces that can affect the hypothalamus and pituitary include things like cancerous and non-cancerous growths, poor blood flow and even diet. For example, women with very low body weight due to extreme exercise or conditions such as anorexia nervosa can have irregular periods due to damage to the hypothalamus.

Reproductive causes

The brain may control the menstrual cycle, but without the reproductive organs there would be nothing to act upon. Normal processes such as pregnancy and menopause can affect the regularity of periods but there are many abnormal processes that occur reproductively that also affect the menstrual cycle.

  • Pregnancy: A missed or notable irregularity in your period is often the first sign of pregnancy. The menstrual cycle happens in the absence of pregnancy, so when pregnancy occurs there is no need for this process.
  • Age-related: Irregularity in periods is very common in both the early stages of puberty and the final stages of a woman's reproductive years (menopause)
  • Obstructive: Cancerous and noncancerous growths within or on the uterus, cervix and ovaries can cause irregular periods. These growths can disrupt the normal flow and shedding of the uterine lining causing heavier periods, missed periods or periods that occur when not expected.
  • Hormonal: Normally, the brain produces and delivers hormones that trigger the production of hormones in the ovaries necessary for a normal menstrual cycle. Often for reasons unknown, a hormonal imbalance can occur within the reproductive tract leading to irregular periods.

Bleeding disorders

  • Functional: Medical conditions such as von Willebrand disease (clotting disorder) that affect the way different components of your blood function can result in irregular periods.
  • Synthetic: Your liver, and to a lesser extent, your kidneys, are organs that are important in making the components of your blood that regulate bleeding. If there is a malfunction in these organs such as liver disease or kidney disease, you may experience irregular periods as well.

Medications

  • Contraceptives: Contraceptives are medications used to control and prevent pregnancy; as such, they directly affect the menstrual cycle and can change the duration and quality of your period as a side effect.
  • Anticoagulant: Medications used to thin the blood for other medical conditions such as heart disease or clotting disorders can cause bleeding not related to a cycle, making it seem like you are having an irregular period.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Irregular Period

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced irregular period. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

    Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormone disorder characterized by irregular periods, acne, and fertility issues.

    Symptoms are well controlled with medicines including combined hormonal birth control.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, depressed mood, painful periods
    Symptoms that always occur with polycystic ovary syndrome:
    oligo/amenorrhea or hyperandrogenism
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Overactive Thyroid

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just above your collarbone. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid glands control how fast one burns calories and how fast the heart beats. If the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism.

    Great prognosis with high remission rates

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Symptoms of Menopause

    Menopause is the point in life where your period stops. This happens when the ovaries stop making hormones that keep your cycle going. The transition into menopause is called peri-menopause and can include symptoms like hot flashes, shortening of menstrual cycle and mood fluctuations.

    Hot flashes typically peak approximately 1 year after the final period and last 4-10 years. Most women stop having hot flashes 4 years after they start, but 10% of women may have hot flashes up to 12 years after their last period.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    delay in or irregular periods
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.Premature Ovarian Failure

    "Premature ovarian failure" (POF), also called "primary ovarian insufficiency" and "early menopause" happens when the ovaries stop working well too early in life. Naturally menopause occurs between the ages 45 and 55. Symptoms of menopause are changes in menstrual period, missing periods, hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, irritability, vaginal itch or burning, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.High Prolactin Hormone Level

    Hyperprolactinemia is a common hormonal disorder in which there are higher than normal levels of prolactin in the blood.

    Depending on the severity of illness, therapy ranges from watchful waiting to medication or surgery.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, vaginal bleeding, irregular period, decreased sex drive, enlargement of breasts
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Cushing Syndrome

    Cushing Syndrome is a hormonal disorder. The cause is long-term exposure to too much cortisol, a hormone that the adrenal gland makes. Sometimes, taking synthetic hormone medicine like corticosteroids to treat an inflammatory disease leads to Cushing's syndrome.

    Recovery depends on treatment method

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, depressed mood, weight gain, back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Acute Stress Disorder

    Acute stress disorder describes changes in one's mood or memory for less than a month following an emotional or traumatic event.

    Acute stress disorder generally lasts days to 1 month.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with acute stress disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Bulimia

    Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder. People suffering from this condition sometimes will eat huge amounts of food, and might take extreme steps such as making themselves vomit to avoid putting on weight.

    With appropriate treatment, recovery is very likely.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, irritability, stomach bloating, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with bulimia:
    vomiting after binge eating
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Anorexia

    Eating disorders are serious behavioral problems. They can include severe overeating, or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight. Anorexia nervosa is a condition where people have an intense fear about how their body looks and how much they weigh, leading to severe caloric restriction.

    80% of people will get better with years of effective counseling and therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, decreased sex drive, frequent mood swings
    Symptoms that always occur with anorexia:
    fear of gaining weight
    Symptoms that never occur with anorexia:
    heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Irregular Period Treatments and Relief

Seek prompt medical attention when you notice symptoms of an irregular period. Depending on the cause of your symptoms and the results of any testing, your doctor may begin one or more of the following irregular period treatments

Medication

  • Hormones: Many central and reproductive causes of irregular periods are the result of an imbalance of hormones in the body. Your doctor may prescribe treatment in the form of these hormones in order to restore your body's balance.
  • Changes to your current regimen: If contraceptive methods or other medications are contributing to your irregular period symptoms, your doctor may discuss stopping your current medications in favor of a new regimen.
  • Other treatment: If your irregular period symptoms are caused by an underlying bleeding disorder or systemic disease, your doctor will treat the primary disease first and monitor its effects on your menstrual cycles.

Surgery

  • When medications fail, some causes of irregular periods can be treated with surgical options that either remove masses or decrease the lining of the uterus. Most cancers of the reproductive organs are removed by surgery.

Pregnancy care

  • If your irregular period is caused by pregnancy your doctor will discuss available options for care.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Irregular Period

  • Q.When was your last menstrual period?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?
  • Q.Are you sexually active?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our irregular period symptom checker to find out more.

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Irregular Period Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced irregular period have also experienced:

    • 18% Bloody Vaginal Discharge
    • 13% Vaginal Bleeding
    • 6% Vaginal Discharge
  • People who have experienced irregular period had symptoms persist for:

    • 63% Over a Month
    • 14% Less Than a Week
    • 10% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced irregular period were most often matched with:

    • 33% Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
    • 33% Overactive Thyroid
    • 33% Hypothyroidism
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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