Symptoms of Hot Flashes
- Intense feelings of heat in the face
- Irregular and rapid heartbeat
- Reddness and flushing in the face
- Regular sleep distrubances
- Cool chills
- Being hot and sweaty from the knees up, yet having cold feet
What is an Irregular Period?
For many women, it is difficult to define what a normal period is. Every menstrual cycle is entirely different, depending on one’s body and hormones. A menstrual cycle with an interval of 24 to 31 days is considered normal, with the duration of bleeding lasting for five days. There are many women who only get their periods one to four times a year, while others have heavy flows for months at a time. A great way to determine the regularity of your menstrual cycle is to keep a chart and count the number of days between each period. If the period occurs within the same number of days between each cycle, than your periods are normal.
Irregular periods affect about 30% of women in their reproductive years. Defined as any type of bleeding that is abnormal compared to one’s typical menstrual cycle, irregular periods are characterized by unusual cycle lengths. Marked by changes in a woman’s typical menstrual cycle that persists for several months, women who experience irregular periods encounter frequent spotting, mid-cycle bleeding, heavy bleeding or absence of period.
Types of Irregular Periods That Affect the Frequency of Menstruation
- Polymenorrhea – An abnormally frequent recurrence of the menstrual cycle, typically with intervals of 21 days or less
- Oligomenorrhea – Extremely short or infrequent menstrual periods. The frequency exceeds 35 days in between menstruation and less than three days during it.
- Amenorrhea – The absence of periods for more than three consecutive periods in women of reproductive age whom are not pregnant.
Types of Irregular Periods that Produce Pain During Menstruation:
- Dysmenorrhea – A medical condition characterized by cramps and severe uterine pain during menstruation. Involves menstrual periods that are so severe that it limits interferes with ones daily activities. The pain is generally in the pelvis or lower abdomen.
Types of Irregular Periods That Affect the Quantity of Menstruation:
- Hypomenorrhea – A condition characterized by scanty periods and a diminution of the menstrual flow; spotting at periods.
- Menorrhagia – an abnormally heavy and prolonged duration of bleeding. It is diagnosed when a woman’s period lasts longer than a week and is often associated with dysmenorrhoea..
Irregular Periods and Fertility
Even with irregular menstrual cycles, pregnancy can occur anytime for women who haven’t experienced menopause yet. Many women who are experiencing the beginning stages of perimenopause jump to the conclusion that they have lost their periods and are unfertile, but to their surprise, they have their periods return after a few months.
Anovulation is a condition where the ovaries fail to release an oocyte, (an egg) during a menstrual cycle, thus ovulation does not take place. Although you are bleeding during the cycle, you do not release an egg or ovulate. It is important to note that a woman who fails to ovulate at each menstrual cycle is not undergoing menopause. Women who experience anovulatory cycles before menopause can lead to difficulties in conception and/or infertility.
Although there are many natural approaches to treating this, many women who are dealing with anovulation are prescribed fertility drugs, such as Clomid, to increase the number of ovulation periods. Before one begins treatment for anovulation, it is crucial to rule out other conditions that could interfere with ovulation, such as diabetes, ovarian issues, abnormalities of the pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands and liver disease.
Causes of Irregular Periods
Hormonal In order to have a menstrual cycle, your body must produce hormones, known as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are found in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and ovaries. In order to trigger ovulation and menstruation, these parts of the body need to send signals to one another. This process is closely controlled by the hypothalamus. As you age, the hypothalamus function declines and these signals are thrown out of order, causing irregular periods.
Estrogen is responsible for thickening the uterine lining before ovulating, so when estrogen levels decrease, the lining sheds and causes heavy bleeding. Progesterone is responsible for controlling the intensity and duration of the menstrual cycle, so when progesterone levels drop, it can lead to irregular periods. Other Causes While hormonal imbalance is one of the main causes of irregular periods during menopause, pre-existing health conditions and lifestyle triggers can also be responsible for irregular periods.
- Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome
- Uterine abnormalities (cysts, polyps, fibroids, endometriosis)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Eating disorders
- Stress and anxiety
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Over exercise
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy tobacco use
- Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar
- Medication use
What To Do About Your Irregular Periods:
- Talk to your health care practitioner if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.
- Schedule a complete physical, including a Pap Smear and a pelvic exam.
- Request for a complete blood count (CBC) to rule out anemia.
Managing Irregular Periods
For many perimenopausal women, simply decreasing stress levels, improving nutrition and dietary intake, while adding nutritional supplements can provide a natural way to restore a woman’s regular menstrual cycle.
- Stay hydrated – One of the most important diet changes to minimize hot flashes is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Water helps flush out toxins from the body and can have a positive effect on menstrual cycles.
- Eat Five Small Meals a Day – Eating sporadically, missing meals and dieting sends your body into survival mode. The bodies which are in starving mode will not cycle regularly, resulting in irregular periods. It doesn’t have to be a complete modification of your diet, but it is important to decrease your intake of refined carbohydrates
- Avoid Foods That Cause Constipation – Avoid consuming foods that could lead to constipation, such as sour and fried foods. Avoid eggplant, yellow pumpkin and potatoes.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Increase your intake of fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herrings, which contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help restore abnormal periods.
- Bamboo Leaves – Bamboo leaves can stimulate and promote menstrual flow, due to the emmenagogue property. Bamboo leaves can also relieve pain during menstruation.
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise – Any activity that promotes mobility, flexibility and relaxation can help a menopausal woman who is experiencing irregular periods. But DON’T engage in strenuous exercise when experiencing irregularity. Depending on how heavy your flow is or how intense the pain is, it is recommended to use stairs at work whenever possible and increase daily walking or jogging time. Working out reduces anxiety and increases endorphin levels, which raises your threshold for pain.
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress and minimize the effects of stress on your body during menopause.
- Herbal Remedies – Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Prescription Treatments – Catapres and Aldomet (blood pressure medications); Birth control pills; Zoloft and Effexor(antidepressants); Provera and Megace (other hormones); and Neurontin (anti-seizure drug)
- Hormone Therapy Treatments (HRT) – For more severe cases of menopause, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.