Check-Up: Irregular periods causing woman to worry

September 24, 2018

Ashley is 20 years old and is worried that her monthly periods have been very irregular since this year and are not really monthly at all. She asks Check Up what could be happening. She says she is definitely not pregnant, as she is not sexually active. A friend has mentioned that she could be having a hormonal problem.

Every woman is different, and her menstrual periods also differ. Some women can predict their period almost to the hour of a particular day of a 28-day cycle. However, this is not so for every woman, and this does not mean that anything is amiss. For very young girls, menstruation may be irregular, as the girl is not yet ovulating every month and menses occur 14 days after ovulation if the egg goes unfertilised. But after this period of time, the cycle usually settles down to some sort of pattern. Changes in the body's level of sexual hormones can disrupt the regular pattern of menstruation, and this is often seen at puberty and near the menopause (change of life).

Other common causes of irregular menstruation (periods) will include changing birth control pills; use of morning after-pill; some medications; thyroid disease; polycystic ovarian syndrome; a prolactinoma (small tumour of the pituitary gland); excessive exercise; extreme changes in weight; introduction of an Intrauterine contraceptive device; stress; pregnancy and breastfeeding; uterine fibroids; and use of Depo-Provera injection for birth control.

Many of these causes of an irregular period will need a physician to question, examine and investigate the patient, so a visit to see your family doctor or gynecologist is a must.

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