Getting irregular?

 Abnormal or untimely bleeding is very common among women, but the reasons are not quite evident, writes Dr Jaya Bhat .

Most women experience abnormal uterine bleeding at some point or the other in their lifetime. The length of a menstrual cycle and amount of blood flow is unique to each woman. However, most women have a cycle that ranges from 21-40 days. The bleeding lasts for four to five days with a blood loss of about 70ml.

An irregular period is usually defined as menstruation of a cycle length shorter than 21 days or longer than 40 days. It includes heavy bleeding with clots, or scanty bleeding. There are many causes of abnormal periods, ranging from everyday stress to more serious underlying medical conditions.

 In many cases, irregular periods are related to a condition called anovulation, which means that ovulation hasn’t taken place during the menstrual cycle, usually due to severe hormonal imbalances. 

Anovulation is often a part of a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This condition is associated with infertility, but, in most cases, can be addressed successfully depending on what the main concern of the person is. Factors that can trigger irregular or missed periods are extreme exercise or dieting, stress, PCOS, uterine polyps or fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endo-metriosis and premature ovary failure.

You should consult your gynaecologist... n If you experience unbearable pain during or between periods.n If you have heavy bleeding.n If you have an abnormal or offensive vaginal discharge.n If your periods tend to last longer than seven days.n If you experience vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods.n If your periods are very irregular. Here are some recommendations for self care:

n Maintain a very healthy lifestyle by exercising moderately and eating low-fat foods. If you have to lose weight, do so gradually, instead of turning to diets that drastically limit your food and nutrient intake.

n Make sure you get enough rest.

n Practise stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

n If you are an athlete, cut back on prolonged or intense exercise routines. Excessive sports activities can cause irregular periods.

n Use birth control pills or other contraceptive methods as directed or prescribed.

n Change your tampons or sanitary napkins at least twice a day, to avoid toxic shock syndrome and prevent infections.

n Visit your gynaecologist for regular check-ups.

(The writer is a senior consultant, gynaecology, Nova Specialty Hospitals, Bangalore)

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