What is an “Irregular” Menstrual Cycle?

irregular menstruation

An irregular menstrual cycle is one that deviates from the typical range for an unknown reason. It can be caused by various factors such as lifestyle, medical conditions, and environmental factors. Chronic irregularity can have negative effects on one's health, and it's recommended to consult with a medical professional. However, some fluctuations in the cycle's length are normal, especially during the onset of menstruation, nearing the end of reproductive years and post-pregnancy, and changes in hormonal birth control usage.

What is considered an irregular cycle?

An irregular menstrual cycle is defined as a pattern of cycles that fall outside of the typical range for the majority of the past six months. This can manifest as infrequent, frequent, or unpredictable periods. Clinically, an irregular cycle is considered to be:

  • Cycles that fall outside of 21-45 days in adolescents
  • Cycles that fall outside of 24-38 days in adults
  • Cycles that vary by more than 7-9 days in length
  • Periods that stop for more than 90 days (unless caused by pregnancy, menopause, or hormonal birth control changes)

There are various factors that can contribute to an irregular cycle, including life stages (such as menarche, perimenopause, pregnancy, and postpartum), sleep/wake cycles (such as shift work or jet lag), physical/emotional changes (such as stress, weight changes, and eating disorders), and medical conditions (such as polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disorders, and infections). It is recommended to consult with a medical professional if you have concerns about your menstrual cycle.

It's important to address irregular menstrual cycles as they can have negative effects on both short-term and long-term health. These cycles can lead to a variety of serious health conditions and cause distressing symptoms. Menstrual cycle health is connected to overall health, including heart health, metabolism, sleep, and fertility. Therefore, it's crucial to identify and address any potential issues as early as possible with the help of a healthcare provider.

When talking to your healthcare provider, it's helpful to provide them with a detailed history of your cycles and any abnormal symptoms, such as cramps, headaches, bloating, urinary incontinence, and infertility. Managing a clinically irregular cycle can help in achieving short-term goals, such as having a more regular period or becoming pregnant, as well as long-term goals for maintaining overall health and well-being.