It’s important that you pay attention to your monthly menstrual cycle to make sure your periods are regular. Why keep track? It makes sense that you want to be prepared, but you might not know that gauging your period is also a good way to gauge your body’s overall health.
Irregularities in your monthly flow can be a sign of a health issue. But what exactly is a “normal” period? Here is when to be concerned about irregular periods.
Defining a “Normal” Period
It is during a woman’s menstrual cycle that hormones cause an ovary to produce and release an egg. The ovary also releases the hormones estrogen, which causes the lining of the womb to thicken, and progesterone, which prepares the womb for implantation of an egg. If the egg is not fertilized, the egg dissolves and the lining of the womb falls away, leaving through the vagina in what is called the monthly period or menses.
A normal cycle lasts anywhere from 28-30 days, starting from the first day of your flow to the first day of the next month’s flow. Some women, however, have cycles that are as short as 21 days or as long as 45 days.
Every woman is different and has a different “normal” for their own body. The key to successfully understanding your period is to figure out what is normal for your body. Tracking your period from month to month is a great way to determine what your normal is.
First, let’s talk about irregular periods and what could be causing them, and then we’ll talk more about how best to track your period.
What Causes Irregular Periods?
Irregular periods can be caused by many different things, ranging from pregnancy to stress. Here are some reasons why you may have irregular periods:
- Pregnancy. One of the more common reasons for a missed period is pregnancy. If you’ve had unprotected sex and you’ve missed a period, it’s a good idea to get tested to see if you’re pregnant.
- Hormonal imbalance. The hormones that are in charge of regulating your period are controlled by the same part of your brain as the hormones that regulate your thyroid; therefore, if you’re having irregular periods, it could be a sign of an issue with your thyroid. Another hormonal imbalance is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can wreak havoc on your hormones, causing you to have missed or irregular periods.
- Dramatic weight loss. A drastic drop in a woman’s BMI (body mass index), as well as having an eating disorder, may result in missed or irregular periods. This can also be brought on by excessive exercise, especially in young women.
- Stress. Prolonged stress caused by major life events (both positive and negative), such as losing a job, buying a new house, exams in school, or breaking up with someone, can all be stress triggers that can affect your menstrual cycle.
- Contraceptives. Birth control such as the pill, hormonal IUDs, implants, and shots can all make your period light or sometimes even nonexistent. The key is to get to know your body and what is normal for you. A period tracker can help you determine that.
How Can I Track My Monthly Cycle?
Tracking your periods is the best way to understand what your normal cycle is. Tracking isn’t just for women trying to get pregnant, but it also allows you to be able to predict the dates, symptoms, and intensity of your upcoming periods. It’s also a good tool to be able to share with your gynecologist at your next office visit.
By sharing your tracking with your doctor, you will be able to see the patterns in your cycle and can accurately assess what’s going on with your body. Depending on how detailed your tracking is, you may be able to capture physical symptoms such as blood flow, bloating, weight gain, and cramps.
You can track your periods using an old-fashioned planner or free apps on your cellphone. Examples of period-tracking apps are Glow, LadyTimer, Fertility Friend, and PinkPad Period Tracker.
When Should I See a Doctor About My Irregular Periods?
If you’ve had three or more consecutive months of missed or erratic periods, you should see your doctor. The general rule of thumb when it comes to your body is that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
If you feel like your cycle is off, it’s never too early to make an appointment with your gynecologist here in Syracuse. Knowing and understanding your menstrual cycle can be a window into your overall general health.
The knowledgeable and friendly medical team at University OB/GYN Associates is here to answer all of your questions about irregular periods and tracking your menstrual cycle. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling us at (315) 464-5162. We look forward to seeing you here.