Living a Regular Life with Irregular Periods

There’s enough taboo around menstruation without turning its irregularities into a separate issue. My cycle varies between 28 and 44 days. This means I have irregular periods, but I’m not worried. After years on and off the Pill, and a run-in with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for me, an irregular period  is as good as it gets.

What is an irregular period?

Your cycle is said to be irregular if it’s longer than 35 days, shorter than 21, or its length varies significantly from month to month. Other signs include extremely heavy or light bleeding, and spotting in between periods.

Inconsistencies are better resolved when we track changes both inside and outside our bodies. When my cycle is approaching 44 days, I’ll look at what is going on in my life that could be causing the delay. Any interruption to your period could indicate that something other than your body needs attention.

What causes irregular periods?

Emotional upheaval can mess with menstruation. Women are cyclic beings living in a linear world obsessed with productivity. Periods don’t play by these rules, and putting pressure on your body to conform can cause problems. Stress, anxiety, depression, illness or travel can interfere with your cycle. Once these have passed, you may resume your rhythm, but what happens when you don’t?

A hormonal imbalance could also be interrupting your flow. PCOS prevents ovulation, while polyps cause irregular menstruation, spotting or vaginal bleeding. If your period is super heavy, fibroids may be responsible. A thyroid disorder can also cause hormonal imbalance, but this is considered to be rare.

Extreme weight loss or gain or too much strenuous exercise can also take their toll. If you’re not nourishing your body sufficiently or taking enough rest, you won’t be able to produce the hormones needed for ovulation.

That said, our periods don’t make us weak or inhibit our ability to do what want. They actually empower us. When you honor each phase of your cycle as a season, you connect with your own rhythm, even if it isn’t the textbook 28 days.

So how do you find your rhythm if you’re using hormonal contraception?

Can birth control make your periods irregular?

If we overcome the stigma of discussing the Pill or intrauterine devices (IUD), we can also talk openly about the issues these might pose to women’s health. Hormonal contraception creates a synthetic cycle, so the way you bleed is manufactured. This may ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but disguise other problems that could interrupt menstruation.

You might have lighter periods or none at all while on the Pill, and an IUD can make your menstrual cycle irregular for up to six months, eventually stopping it altogether. When you come off birth control, synthetic hormones leave your body within days, but contraception suppresses your natural hormone regulation, so it can take months to re-establish a natural flow.

Know that your fertility can come back quickly, almost immediately, even without a regular cycle. This is great news if you want to get pregnant.   

How can I get pregnant with an irregular period?

A menstrual cycle, regular or otherwise, means you’re ovulating. So it is possible to get pregnant with irregular periods. If you’ve ruled out the issues above, there are other ways to increase your fertility before you hit the drugs or panic button. This is the time to alleviate stress.

Trying to get pregnant while fearing infertility can have an adverse impact. Do whatever it takes to tone down your anxiety with meditation, yoga, journaling, or talking about your fears with someone empathetic.

Nutrition is also important. Women are always told how to eat so there’s no need to add to the echo chamber. Let your body find its natural weight. Eat, move, rest, and don’t force it. Prenatal vitamins can support the process, and Chasteberry helps with hormonal balance, increasing chances of ovulation.

Use a period tracking app, no matter how irregular your cycle is, to help you predict your window of fertility. You may notice a pattern of ovulation occurring. If not, you’ll recognize ovulation symptoms over time. A high libido is a good sign. The transition into motherhood can detract from your sexuality. Society expects us to deny our desire, but there’s no shame in it.

Nor is there shame in having a menstrual cycle that varies monthly. It’s your body calling for attention, telling you there’s a better way to live your life. So it’s perfectly regular to be irregular from time to time. Trust the wisdom of your cycle. If we maintain a connection with our bodies, as well as control over the choices we make regarding them, irregular periods become a non-issue.

Featured image by Anete Lusina

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