When to Worry About Irregular Periods

Dec 12, 2023
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Irregular periods are surprisingly common, and often, they’re nothing to worry about. Sometimes, though, they can signal a serious health problem. Here’s how to tell if you need to have a medical evaluation.

For most women, menstrual cycles follow a predictable schedule, with periods typically occurring every 28 days or so and lasting about 5-7 days. Sometimes, though, periods occur irregularly, with changes in frequency, duration, or even the amount of blood lost. 

Often, these changes are temporary and nothing to worry about. But other times, irregularities can indicate a more serious issue that needs medical attention. 

At I & B Medical Associates in Miami, Florida, our team is skilled in identifying the cause of irregular periods, including those that occur in the months and years leading up to menopause

Here, learn about some causes of irregular periods and when to seek medical attention.

Defining irregular periods

First, it’s important to know that while 28 days is the length of an average menstrual cycle, your cycle may vary from 21 to 35 days. Likewise, the duration of your period can vary from 3-4 days to about a week. 

If you have a cycle that falls outside these ranges, it’s still probably no cause for concern. But if you routinely experience one longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days, that’s chronic irregularity — and a sign you should come in for a visit.

Irregular periods can also include those when your menstrual flow is lighter or heavier than usual.

Measuring menstrual flow isn’t easy, but use your best judgment. If your flow appears light or spotty or you need to change protection frequently, those are irregularities that should be evaluated by our team.

Why irregular periods happen

Puberty and menopause are frequent causes of period irregularities. At both stages of life, your hormone levels fluctuate — sometimes dramatically.

Irregularities during these times are common but shouldn’t be ignored. It’s still a good idea to schedule a visit to ensure an underlying problem isn’t the cause.

Other causes of irregular periods include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Some types of medication
  • Certain cancers

You can also develop irregular periods if you experience a lot of acute or chronic stress or if you engage in strenuous physical workouts.

When to schedule a visit

In addition to seeing changes in your cycle’s frequency, duration, or flow, you should also schedule a visit if you experience unusual symptoms during your cycle, including:

  • Spotting between periods
  • Severe cramping
  • Nausea or vomiting during your period
  • Pelvic pain or aching
  • Spotting or bleeding following intercourse

In addition, schedule an office visit if you skip three or more periods or if the time between your cycles varies by nine days or more — for instance, one cycle is 28 days apart, and the next is 37 days apart.

Even though occasional irregularities in a menstrual cycle are typically harmless, if you do experience a change in your cycle that’s worrisome, an office visit can put your mind at ease and make sure you receive treatment when needed. 

To find out what’s causing your irregular periods, call 786-321-2399 or book an appointment online at I & B Medical Associates today.