One could see the fear in the eyes of 18-year-old Courtney, who had her first menstruation when she was 13. The reason for the fear was her delayed period. It's been a little over three months since she last saw it. Some months before those missed periods, she had a lot going on for her– from preparing for her finals to training for a marathon. She was utterly stressed out.
Menstrual irregularities–what they are
Menstrual irregularities are problems encountered with a woman's monthly flow. These problems include missed periods, delayed periods, or erratic periods (periods without a clear pattern).
Apart from these, women could experience:
- Abnormal bleeding such as heavy menstrual flow or a period that lasts longer than 7 days
- Painful periods
- Frequent periods (very short gaps in between periods)
- Sudden light flow
Causes of menstrual irregularities
Anorexia nervosa: This is an eating disorder where there is low weight, fear of weight gain, and a strong desire to remain thin. This disorder interferes with the monthly flow by reducing menstrual flow and frequency, and this interference is due to poor nutrition. If left untreated, this disorder could lead to the cessation of the menstrual cycle.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): It is a condition in which there is higher amount of male hormones in a female. This syndrome causes few or no menstrual periods.
Stress: Stress could be physical or emotional. Physical stress is due to strenuous physical activities such as excessive exercise, as seen in athletes. This type of stress tends to disrupt the normal menstrual cycle. Emotional stress due to losing a loved one, heartbreaks, and depression can cause delayed or missed periods.
Thyroid disease: The thyroid gland produces hormones that control the metabolic rate and basic functions of the body such as menstruation in females. When affected by a disease, it could lead to increased or decreased periods, with light/heavy menstrual flow.
Endometriosis: This disease involves the presence of endometrium (the tissue lining the womb) in other areas of the body like the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, and so on. The presence of more of this tissue causes heavy periods which last longer than usual. Apart from this, females who have endometriosis suffer from dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).
Medication side effects: Certain steroid medications like prednisolone can cause irregular, prolonged, and heavier periods. Hormonal medications, including contraceptive pills can also disrupt your menstrual pattern.
Treatment of Menstrual Irregularities
Treatment of menstrual irregularities involves dealing with whatever caused it in the first place.
- Certain diseases like endometriosis, thyroid disease, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are treated accordingly with drugs, surgery, or the use of hormonal therapy.
- For anorexic women, there is a need for therapy and counseling to help them build confidence in their body images and encourage proper nutrition.
- For people going through stress, there's a need to deal with the cause of the stress, such as:
- Grief counseling for those who experienced loss.
- Advising those going through physical stress to find ways to unwind. This can be achieved by seeing movies, hanging out with friends, spending time with family, and resting appropriately.
- Those going through depression should be placed on antidepressants and given adequate therapy.
- For female athletes, proper nutrition and rest is advised.
Menstrual irregularities include a wide range of menstrual problems, from heavy periods to delayed periods or even abnormal cessation of menses. It is best to check with your doctor whenever you notice a change in your periods for proper evaluation and treatment.