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Learn about your 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.

Irregular Period Checker

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Your Irregular Period May Also be Known as:
Change in period
Erratic periods
Irregular menstruation
Menstrual changes
Odd periods
Period changes
Shorter periods
Unpredictable menstruation
Unpredictable periods

Irregular Period Symptoms

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 lesser extent your kidney 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

  • Contraceptive: 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.

Top 10 Irregular Period Causes

  1. 1.Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms.

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

    Diagnosis doesn't require a blood test and completed menopause is defined as not having a period for the last 12 months. Treatment of symptoms includes diet and exercise, hormonal and non-hormonal therapies, and OTC medications as symptoms occur.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, vaginal discharge, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, anxiety
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    hidden: menarche status: perimenopausal or postmenopausal
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.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.

    You should discuss your symptoms with your physician, who might take a blood test.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, anxiety, vaginal itch or burning, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.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.

    Your treatment will depend on why your have too much cortisol. If it is because you have been taking synthetic hormones, a lower dose may control your symptoms. If the cause is a tumor, surgery and other therapies may be needed, so a doctor's consultation in the near future is best.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, weight gain, back pain
    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.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss symptoms and treatment options.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, headache, irregular period, decreased sex drive, enlargement of breasts
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Intrauterine Adhesions

    Scars in the womb are called 'intrauterine adhesions'. These can develop after certain procedures like curettage, a procedure where the inner lining of the womb is scraped. Curettage is used to induce abortion, remove placental remnants after child birth or for the removal of uterine fibroids or myoma's. Symptoms of this condition can be abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or recurrent pregnancy loss.

    You should discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician or OB/GYN. He/she will likely perform further testing like a hormone test and/or a hysteroscopy.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, painful periods, irregular period, heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who might take a blood test to measure your levels of thyroid hormone. The test will tell the doctor whether a referral to an endocrinologist is useful. Treatment plans would likely be set by the specialist and include drugs to reduce your thyroid activation.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Functional Amenorrhea

    Absent periods or irregular periods that happen less than 6 to 8 times a year can be caused by changes in hormone levels. These changes in hormone levels can be due to anxiety/stress, weight loss and/or extreme excercise.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms and go over treatment options for the underlying condition.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, fatigue, irregular period, purposefully losing weight, last period was months ago
    Symptoms that never occur with functional amenorrhea:
    heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Hashimoto's Disease

    The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck that is responsible for making thyroid hormones. These hormones control important body functions, such as heart rate and the rate at which the body turns food into energy. Hashimoto's disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, and not enough thyroid hormone is produced, leading to symptoms like fatigue and weight gain.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Hashimoto's disease is a complex condition that is usually treated by hormone replacement therapy to bring hormone levels back up to normal.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea
    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 the 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.How long have you been having these changes in your period?
  • Q.Has your menstrual changes been getting better or worse?
  • Q.When was your last menstrual period?
  • Q.Are you currently sexually active?

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

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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:

    • 59% Over a Month
    • 16% Less Than a Week
    • 11% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced irregular period were most often matched with:

    • 32% Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
    • 15% Uterine Fibroids
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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    Irregular Period Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having irregular period.

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