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Most of you will experience irregular periods – whether they’re missed or late. Should you be concerned? We answer the most commonly asked questions.

What qualifies as an irregular period?

Irregular bleeding can mean many things. It could be that you’ve started bleeding earlier or later than usual. You could be experiencing unusually light bleeding or a heavier than normal flow. Or it can mean the absence of your period (amenorrhea) or having two periods in one month (metrorrhagia).

Why is my period irregular?

If you’ve only just started your period and you’re irregular, relax. It’s normal to be irregular for the first few years. Your ovulation hasn’t regulated itself properly yet. As it does, your period will become more predictable. Most women will have had an irregular period at least once or twice in their lifetime.

What are some of the causes of irregular periods?

There are many possible causes of irregular periods, including weight gain, malnutrition, excessive exercise, hormone imbalance, contraceptives, puberty, pregnancy and menopause.

It’s common for stress to take a toll on your period. You might have started at a new school or job. You might have problems with your love life or have had a family argument. Or you might even be excited over a holiday, wedding or house move. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol. Too much of it in your bloodstream can interfere with how much oestrogen and progesterone hormones your body produces. And this can interfere with your period cycle.

Why am I starting my period early?

Some months, your menstrual cycle can be a different length to usual. If you start your period earlier than you would expect to, there isn’t a reason to worry. If you’re interested in knowing more about your personal cycle and want to predict when you’ll start your period, you can use a period tracker.

In some cases, women can experience implantation bleeding when a fertilised egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. This typically occurs 1-2 weeks after conception and a few days earlier than your period would start. If there’s a possibility that you could be pregnant, and you experience this early bleeding followed by no period, you may want to take a pregnancy test just to be sure.

Can you get your period more than once a month?

Bleeding twice or more in a month is thought to be due to a hormone imbalance. Frequent or irregular periods can also be the sign of a medical problem or an infection, and too much bleeding can result in anaemia, an iron deficiency. Visit your doctor to find out if you need treatment.

What are some reasons for a missed period?

Missing a period, or even periods, can be concerning. One of the first signs of pregnancy is missing a period, so if you’re sexually active it’s wise to check this isn’t the case by taking a pregnancy test or seeing a doctor. 

The many reasons for missing a period are similar to possible causes of irregular periods: stress, sudden weight loss, being overweight, doing too much exercise, contraceptives or the menopause

Your periods stopping can sometimes be the result of a medical condition, such as PCOS, heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, an overactive thyroid or premature menopause. You should make an appointment with your GP if you’ve missed more than 3 periods in a row, and you’ve checked that you are not pregnant.

Can childbirth cause irregular periods?

When your body goes through childbirth, it experiences a change in hormone levels. And when your hormone levels are upset, it’s normal to experience absence of menstruation. Also, breastfeeding can cause periods to stop completely and they might not resume until you have stopped. This doesn’t mean you’re not ovulating though. You’re still able to get pregnant, so you should use condoms for birth control (the contraceptive pill isn’t recommended for women who have just given birth). When your period starts again, it might be lighter and shorter, or longer and heavier than it was before. This is common in new mothers.

Should I do anything about an irregular period?

Don’t be alarmed about irregular periods. Your period cycle should go back to normal on its own or with a few simple lifestyle changes. But if you have irregular periods for longer than three months, consult a doctor. It’s a good idea to keep track of the length and frequency of your periods, you can use the Bodyform period tracker for this. If you’re worried about a period taking you by surprise, always have a pad or two with you, just in case.

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