Irregular periods are common amongst menstruating women. You are not alone!
Though common, correct meaning of irregular menstrual bleeding and
its usage seems to be a problem. You might have asked yourself “are
these normal or irregular menstrual bleeding?” In fact, I have heard
this question from many women- “what are regular periods?”
this article, I intend to present a vivid presentation that should get
you comfortable with what a regular menstrual cycle is, how to identify
irregular menses, common presentations of irregular periods and common
causes besides pregnancy.
What Are Regular Periods?
Normally, the normal menstrual cycle has these important characteristics
- The cycle length.This
is the number of days from one menstrual bleed to another. It is from
the first day of menstrual flow to the day before the first day of the
next menses. You could use a paper calender to do this easily or some
menstruation softwares if available to you. The normal range is from 21
to 35 days, with the textbook average of about 28 days. Your cycle
length must not be 28 days; any length between 21 and 35 days is
considered normal. In fact a small percentage of women especially in
the extreme of menstruation years( around menarche and menopause) may
have normal cycles well out of this “normal range”.
- The duration of menstrual flow.Normally,menstrual periods last about 3 to 7 days.
- The volume of the menstrual bleed.Quantitatively,
this is given as 80ml, but this value is almost useless to the woman at
home. Practically, most women learn to know their normal menstrual
bleed by the number of pads they use and how wet they are with blood.
- The quality of the menstrual blood.The
blood is bright or light red and may be brown in some women. Usually
does not contain clots though some few clots may be found intermittently
or even regularly in some women.
You may want to read more on normal menstruation to know more about the characteristics of normal menstruation.
experts have used all of the 4 characteristics above to describe what a
regular cycle is. That is your cycle are considered regular when the
length, volume or duration of menstrual bleeding are within the normal
range and do not vary widely.
others define regular periods in terms of the regularity of the cycle
length from cycle to stable alone and this is what I will focus on here.
This means a regular cycle is one that has little variation in the
cycle length from one cycle to another. The cycle length is the most
important parameter for predicting the occurrence of the next menses.
For most women, it may vary by 1 to 2 days and as high as 3-5 days in
some. It also determines how many cycles a woman will have in a year.
With a regular cycle of about 28 to 30 days, you will have about 10 to
13 menstrual cycles in a year.
Whatever the case, note these points below
is no one standard for what a regular cycle should be for every woman.
You should learn what is normal for you over time. Learn from your body
what is normal for the 4 parameters given above. A simple paper,calender
and a pencil or pen with the determination might be all that is
- Menstrual cycles do not follow calender
dates.I have encountered many young women in the office who suppose
their cycles are irregular because it does not come on a fixed calender
date, say every 12th or 13th of the month. Please be informed that
menses do not follow calender dates but your cycle length. It does not
matter the date of the month the menses occur, what matter is the number
of days between the current menses and the past one.
Normal “Irregular Periods”
Yes, there are some few cases where irregular periods might be considered normal.
These include the 3 cases below
- Around menarche. Once menses begin at menarche, it may take about 2 years for the periods to become regular.
- Perimenopause. As menopause approaches, periods normally become irregular.
- Almost every woman
will have irregular menstrual bleeding once in a while because of
anovvulatory cycles. These occur most often around menarche or menopause
but can also occur in other menstruating females.
What Are Irregular Periods?
With the understanding from above stated facts about a normal regular
cycle with respect to cycle length, irregular periods are said to occur
when the cycle length varies widely from cycle to cycle. The practical
problem that this poses is that such women can be embarrassed easily by
an unexpected menses and also an unexpected pregnancy!
obvious question is “what is unacceptable cycle to cycle variation in
the cycle lengths? What is acceptable variation? Most often, vague terms
such as ‘vary too much” etc are being used. Medically, there is also
no concrete fixed limit of variation common to all. Some experts
consider variations of 10 days or above to be irregular cycles. The
reason for this difficultly is partly because of the variation of what
is normal amongst normal women, meaning some women might have wide
variations of about 5-8 days from cycle to cycle without any major
A second factor in irregular menses
to cycle variation might not be the only issue with irregular cycles.
Another problem to consider is the actual cycle length itself.
Theoretically, one could have cycles of about 15 days which are out of
the normal range but are regular from cycle to cycle. However,
most diseases affecting cycle lengths will not produce such a
predictable and regular pattern. If it is very regular, it could just be
normal for that particular woman, after medical clearance of course.
Important details for you
details of the limit of length variation might be an issue for the
experts to discuss and resolve now. Dealing the uncertainty of your
periods and the possible causes of any irregularities is likely what is
most important to you now. How to I get about my periods now? This is
what I advice women regarding identifying irregular periods-
- Know what is normal for you, including the cycle length and normal cycle to cycle variation.
at any time, your cycle to cycle variation goes out of what is normal
for you, see a doctor. For example, a woman who has been having
variations of 1-2 days and now has wide variations going up to 6 days
is likely having an abnormality.
- If you are having
cycles lengths out of the acceptable 21 to 35 days range, it will be
wise to see a doctor to ascertain there is no problem. This is
especially important if you have other pelvic symptoms such as pain or
Common Patterns Of Irregular Menstrual Bleeding
The length of the cycle will determine how many menstrual periods a woman will have in a year. The two extremes are
- Oligomenorrhea or long menstrual cycleThis
occurs when the cycle lengths is more than 35 days. Since the length
is longer, fewer cycles will occur in a 12 month period. Oligomenorrhea
means few periods.
- Polymenorrhea or Frequent PeriodsThis occurs when the cycle length is shorter than 21 days and therefore the number of cycles in a year increases. P
There are multiple causes of irregular menstrual cycles. The good
news however is that most causes are not serious and readily treated. In
some of them may just require some lifestyle adjustments to regulate.
most common reason for an irregular period is a missed menses and
pregnancy is the number one reason! Besides pregnancy, there are other
causes such as excessive weight changes and exercise, stress and some
Return From Irregular Periods To Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Return From Irregular Periods To Menstruation Home
How Did Irregular Periods Affect You? What Did You Do To Make Them Regular Again?
Irregular period are so common. They can also be annoying because of an unexpected bleeding or similar problems. What is your experience? Share what you did to remedy the situation.