Have you noticed that your periods are irregular or that you miss them altogether – even though you’re not pregnant? This happens to a lot of women, for a variety of reasons.
Here are six reasons why it may be happening to you, and when you should visit your doctor or gynae.
Reasons you experience irregular menstrual cycles
Extreme dieting or exercising: Exercising to extremes can disrupt your menstrual cycle or stop it altogether, which is why some professional athletes experience missed periods. The same goes for dieting: if you restrict your food intake or are dealing with an eating disorder, it is possible that your periods will be irregular.
Your birth control: Some forms of birth control can disrupt your period. The injection and the IUD are both known to cause irregular bleeding and in some cases, stop your cycles altogether. The pill can also interfere with your cycle and lead to irregular or missed periods, especially if you don’t take it correctly.
Other medication: Started taking new medication for an ailment? Chat to your prescribing doctor to find out whether this could be the reason for your missed period.
Stress: Any time you’re dealing with high levels of stress, there’s a chance that your menstrual cycle could be disturbed. Anxiety can mess with your hormones which in turn plays havoc on your menstrual cycle.
Illness: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that causes tiny cysts to form on your ovaries. This can lead to irregular or missed periods. It can also increase your chances of infertility, diabetes and heart disease, and it affects around 10% of women of reproductive age. Other illnesses that can affect your periods are thyroid disorders, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), diabetes, endometriosis, fibroids and eating disorders. If you suspect you may be suffering from any of these conditions, it’s critical that you visit your doctor, clinic or gynae as soon as possible.
Age: Women who are at the very beginning of their reproductive age (i.e: girls who have just started their periods) as well as women who are nearing the end of it (i.e: beginning menopause) often experience irregular periods. Your cycles may not be on the same day every month, and may be lighter or heavier during different months. It may take a few months or years to settle into a regular pattern (if your periods are just starting) or for your cycles to stop altogether (if you’re menopausal).
When to visit a doctor
Any time you miss a period despite not being pregnant, it’s a sign that you should visit your doctor, gynae or clinic. You can also rule out some of the potential causes listed above by having your annual women’s wellness check up.
You can visit your nearest Marie Stopes centre for a woman’s wellness consultation, as well as STI screening and treatment, and guidance from caring and qualified nurses.