Have you experienced periods that skipped a few days, weeks, or months? Or even go MIA? Whilst it may be common, having irregular periods can lead to super annoying and stressful situations. I know I don’t want to worry that my period is going to arrive in the middle of a big meeting, date or when I’m on holiday. Read on for what exactly is an irregular period VS regular period, the common causes for irregular periods and our tips on regulating your cycle (without the pill!).
What is an irregular period?
Let’s start with what a regular period is. A regular period that arrives every 25-32 days. No one has an exactly 28-day cycle so don’t fret is yours ranges between a few days in between.
An irregular period is either under 21 days long or over 35 days long. If you don’t already, it would be a great idea for you to start tracking your period and get an idea of how long or short your menstrual cycle is. This can determine what a ‘normal’ cycle is for you and allow you to quickly recognise when your cycles become irregular. There are so many free apps you can download onto your phone such as the “Clue Period and cycle tracker” and “Flo” app.
What are the common causes of irregular periods, later periods or missed periods?
There are SO many reasons that can affect the regularity of our periods and many women will experience irregular periods at least once in her life. Read on for the (many) potential causes of irregular, late or missed periods.
Often, women with irregular periods will find that their sex hormones that are out of range. Irregular periods often present with low progesterone, high estrogen, and high androgen (such as testosterone).
Both physical and psychological stress can disrupt the communication between our brains and ovaries which then cause our periods to become irregular or absent. This makes sense from a biological standpoint as our bodies perceive stressful periods as an inappropriate time to reproduce and hence may delay or ‘shut down’ ovulation.
It’s common for both young adolescents and women experiencing perimenopause to have irregular and anovulatory (‘without ovulation’) periods. For young girls, their bodies are still transitioning from having no menstrual periods to having monthly periods and hence sometimes teens will experience skipped, late or missed periods as their body adjusts to their new role.
In women with perimenopause, their hormones are fluctuating, and they’ll tend to experience more anovulatory, heavier and late periods as they transition to having no menstrual periods.
Eating, exercise & weight changes
Changing our diet, exercise routine and even weight can affect our periods. If you’ve made drastic changes to these, it might be a good idea to slow down and reconsider if these changes have been made too abruptly. Sometimes slow and steady is the best approach.
Several medical conditions can cause a woman’s periods to become irregular, late or stop. It’s important to seek professional advice and investigate further to determine if there’s an underlying medical condition. Conditions that can cause irregular, late or absent periods include pregnancy, perimenopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), eating disorders, chronic stress, uncontrolled diabetes hypothyroidism and even coeliac disease (Burdo, 2019) (“Irregular Periods: Why Is My Period Late?”, 2020).
Should I worry about irregular periods?
If you find your cycles to be consecutively irregular after 3 months, it’s worthwhile speaking to your health care practitioner to determine the exact cause of why it’s happening. Whilst some women may think it’s common, it isn’t normal to experience less than 8 periods per year or 2 periods in one month.
Not only are irregular periods incredibly annoying to deal with- they’re also a sign from our bodies that our hormones are imbalanced. If we’re dealing with irregular periods, we’re probably also dealing with other symptoms of imbalanced hormones such as bloating, unwanted hair growth, sugar cravings, mood swings, low motivation, and sore breasts. Additionally, for women who are looking to conceive soon, it’s particularly important to investigate your irregular periods (more on this soon).
Irregular periods and pregnancy
Whilst it’s possible to still become pregnant if you have an irregular period, it can be a little more difficult. For women who are looking to become pregnant, you’ll need to time when you’re having sex during your fertile window or around ovulation. Yes, ladies, there’s only a small window during the month where we can fall pregnant! However, if your period is irregular- this will make it more difficult to time sexual intercourse around your fertile window.
Additionally, low progesterone can cause a woman’s period to become short or irregular. Progesterone plays an important role in allowing a woman to fall pregnant and remain pregnant. I recommend getting this tested via bloodwork if you can so you can determine if it’s causing your irregular periods.
How do you fix irregular periods?
Address the root cause
This will involve speaking to your healthcare practitioner and investigating why your cycles may be irregular. They may recommend going on the pill to ‘regulate’ your period, but the birth control is not the answer. It’s empowering to identify what’s causing your hormones to become out of balance and making the necessary dietary and lifestyle shifts to rebalance your hormones. Try our new Period Quiz available on our website to find our best Moonbox recommendations to support you and your hormones.
Don’t go low carb, go ‘good’ carb
Whilst eating too many highly refined foods such as biscuits, ice cream and fruit juice can increase inflammation in our body and worsen insulin resistance, it’s important to recognise that not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Carbohydrates are so, so important for regulating our sex hormones. When our intake of carbohydrates becomes too low it puts our body in a state of stress (Soltani, Keim & Laugero, 2019). When our bodies become stress, this disrupts the natural balance of our hormones and consequently cause our periods to become late, irregular or MIA. Ensure you’re consuming enough carbohydrates by incorporating a serving of “good” or low GI carbohydrates in each meal. This can look like a medium banana, ½ a cup of uncooked quinoa/brown rice/oatmeal, ½ a cup of cooked beans or 1 cup of sweet potato.
Eat healthy fats
Consuming enough fats supports hormone production and ovulation. Polyunsaturated fats, a type of fatty acid found have shown to have amazing benefits in reducing androgen levels in women with PCOS. Both excess androgen levels can affect our ability to have regular, ovulatory periods (Phelan et al., 2011). What’s an easy way to incorporate more PUFA’s into your diet? Simply by adding in a tablespoon or two of our Earth Seeds into your meals!
Inadequate sleep can affect so many of our hormones such as our hunger, sex, and stress hormones. Poor sleep can affect our ability to regulate stress hormones and as mentioned multiple times, high stress = disrupted hormones = irregular periods.
Magnesium helps ‘quieten’ the mind down and allows us to fall asleep easier whilst sleep masks block out artificial light and secrete the necessary hormones we need for sleep (Suni, 2021).
As previously mentioned, stress can play a big role in disrupting our reproductive cycle and in some women stress can stop ovulation from occurring altogether. With our busy lives, relentless to-do lists and responsibilities, it’s not easy to build in a relaxation practice.
But incorporating stress-fighting practices is essential to get our periods under control. Schedule in ‘me’ time with a bath using our magnesium bath salts (Moon Soak) whilst using our Moon Clay natural face mask. You’ll come out of the bath feeling fresh, clean, and so much more relaxed.
It will take some time for our hormones and cycle to regulate. Be patient with yourself and pat yourself on the back for really delving in to figure out the root cause of your irregular periods. If you’re looking for ways to further educate yourself on having beautifully, balanced hormones- check out our Healthy Hormones, happy periods Ebook” Bundle. You’ll be guided with scientifically backed recommendations (and so much more!) on how to bring your hormones back to balance and experience regular periods.
Moonbox Nutritionist Judy
website: www.nutritionbyjudy.com Instagram: @nutritionbyjudy
Clue Period and Cycle Tracker
Flo Period Tracker
Happy hormones happy periods ebook bundle
Daily essentials bundle
Clinical Nutritionist Judy Cho,
Boyle, N., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. doi: 10.3390/nu9050429
Burdo, H. (2019). Celiac Disease and Infertility. Retrieved 3 July 2021, from https://www.glutenfreeliving.com/gluten-free/celiac-disease/celiac-disease-and-infertility/
Irregular Periods: Why Is My Period Late?. (2020). Retrieved 3 July 2021, from https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/womens-health/2020/november/irregular-periods-why-is-my-period-late
Phelan, N., O’Connor, A., Kyaw Tun, T., Correia, N., Boran, G., Roche, H., & Gibney, J. (2011). Hormonal and metabolic effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 93(3), 652-662. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.005538
Soltani, H., Keim, N., & Laugero, K. (2019). Increasing Dietary Carbohydrate as Part of a Healthy Whole Food Diet Intervention Dampens Eight Week Changes in Salivary Cortisol and Cortisol Responsiveness. Nutrients, 11(11), 2563. doi: 10.3390/nu11112563
Suni, E. (2021). Melatonin and Sleep. Retrieved 3 July 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin#:~:text=Melatonin%2C%20often%20referred%20to%20as,to%20orient%20our%20circadian%20rhythm.