Are Irregular Periods Normal?

Irregular periods are normal. However, you may find it hard to track your period, learn more of the causes and tips to manage it.

A young Asian lady is sitting on a bench and working on her laptop in a park

In Biology class, most of us learned that the average menstrual cycle is 28-30 days. But in reality, the calculation is not so simple. During the early years of puberty, irregular periods are normal. Irregular periods occur when the length of your menstrual cycle or the gap between the start dates of your period keeps changing. When your period is irregular, you may not be able to track it. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Lee Shin Wei from Eu Yan Sang clinic says, “Irregular period could be as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days. Anything between 21 and 35 days is considered a normal cycle. When you first start having periods, it can also take a while before your periods develop a regular pattern.” 

However, what happens when your period is becoming irregular in adulthood? It’s necessary to first find out why before treating the problem source. This article discusses the causes and symptoms of irregular periods, with a specific focus on non-disease-related issues. We will also share home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help regulate your monthly flow. 

Causes and Symptoms of Irregular Periods

An Asian woman looking at a calendar to track her irregular periods
Certain medications can cause irregular periods.

There may be more than one root cause of your period irregularity. Whether you notice it or not, several causes of prolonged or abnormal periods include: 

  • Stress and routines. Gaining or losing weight, travelling, and sickness can impact your menstruation cycle. Research finds that high-stress levels were associated with only menstrual irregularities but not with duration, amount of flow, or period pain. 
  • Hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalances are common in girls who have just begun menstruating and women approaching menopause. Changes in the levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can change the pattern of your period. Moreover, stress and an unhealthy diet are closely related to hormonal imbalance. 
  • Birth control and medications. Contraceptive methods like birth control pills usually contain a combination of estrogen and progestin, while some only contain progestin. Meanwhile, around 70% of women who consume anticoagulants or blood thinners experience heavy menstrual bleeding. 

Internal imbalance that causes irregular periods 

The human body is a harmonious system with multiple organs and fluids working together. A disturbance within this system can impair bodily functions, including your menstrual cycle. In TCM, irregular periods are prompted by: 

1. Blood deficiency  

Due to insufficient energy intake, a large amount of fat and protein is broken down, resulting in a significant lack of oestrogen. “Insufficient nutrients will cause low blood production, and the lack of blood to nourish the womb results in a longer time taken for the blood to accumulate hence a longer period cycle,” physician Lee explains. 

2. Blood stasis  

Consuming too much cold food or drinks, such as cold drinks and ice cream, would constrict the blood vessels in the pelvic cavity. This decreases blood flow to nourish the uterus. 

“This leads to delayed menstruation and even amenorrhea. Cold food will also slow down blood flow and cause blood coagulation, which will result in a lighter period flow. In severe cases, there will be no period in that cycle,” physician Lee says.

3. Qi stagnation  

Long-term mental depression, stress, anger, or suffering from major mental stimulation and psychological trauma can lead to menstrual disorders. Unstable emotions will cause qi stagnation where blood cannot flow freely. Thus, there will be distending pain at the hypochondriac and breast area and period cramps during menstruation. 

4. Qi deficiency 

Staying up late is a bad habit that can easily lead to endocrine disorders, causing irregular menstruation. Irregular sleep patterns will cause qi deficiency with symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness. Furthermore, it will result in decreased energy to transport blood efficiently to the whole body and endometrium. This will cause a delay in the next period as there is not enough blood in the endometrium. 

Home Remedies

A plate full of healthy food. Brown rice topped with broccoli, carrots, purple cabbage, walnuts, pinenuts, chickpeas, avocado, tomato, lettuce and grilled chicken breast
Make it a point to eat a balanced meal to ensure you get adequate nutrition.

Depending on the causes, several natural ways may help you regulate your period. 

Balance your diet 

According to the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, nutrition pattern is one of the important factors predicting menstrual distress, which varies among different cultures and countries.

“Women should have a balanced diet, avoid excessive weight loss, and consume adequate iron to promote more blood production in the body,” physician Lee advises.

Exercise regularly 

Exercise is good for overall health because it promotes blood circulation in the body. In addition, regular exercise boosts serotonin production, which can help to stabilise the overall mood. Yoga practice is found to be helpful in patients with hormone imbalances. Other low-impact exercises for you to try are qigong and taichi

Acupuncture 

Physician Lee says that acupuncture can promote blood flow and overall body energy to restore balance in the body. It can also release stress and hence regulate period blood flow. 

In a case report on acupuncture in medicine, a 17-year-old girl with a history of dysfunctional uterine bleeding was treated with Chinese acupuncture. After four weeks, she recovered fully and her period remained normal for at least six months after the treatment was discontinued.

Consuming specific herbs and spices 

You can also consider herbal remedies for irregular periods. Ginger and cinnamon have been known to help ease the condition.

In a 2014 study of the effects of ginger on heavy menstrual bleeding published in Phytotherapy Research, the amount of menstrual blood loss drastically declined during the three intervention cycles in the ginger-receiving group.

Aside from ginger, cinnamon may lessen menstrual bleeding, help relieve cramps, and reduce nausea. 

Physician Lee suggests drinking herbal tea containing goji berry, ginseng, rosebuds and red dates to help calm the mind and reduce any menstrual pain. “Bazhen soup could also be consumed every week after your period to nourish the blood in your body if you have cold limbs on normal days.” 

Additionally, TCM has a classic remedy for regulating periods. Youth Bak Foong capsules work to nourish the body and improve weak body constitution. 

Do not be shy if you have irregular periods. Your family, friends and healthcare professionals can give you helpful suggestions. Make it a priority to get enough rest and practise relaxation techniques. If the condition persists, consult a medical professional for a diagnosis.

References

  1. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2015. To evaluate the effect of perceived stress on menstrual function.  [Accessed on 20 January 2021]
  2. Journal of Innovations in Pharmaceuticals and Biological Sciences. 2015. Hormonal imbalance and its causes in young females. [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  3. Hematology. 2020. Management of heavy menstrual bleeding on anticoagulation.  [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  4. Endotext. 2018. The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation.  [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  5. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 2015. The relationship between food frequency and menstrual distress in high school females.  [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  6. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013. Impact of Yoga Nidra on menstrual abnormalities in females of reproductive age. [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  7. Open Access. 2018. Acupuncture treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding in an adolescent.  [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 
  8. Phytotherapy Research. 2014. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on heavy menstrual bleeding: a placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. [Accessed on 20 January 2021] 

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