Irregular Periods: Your Period’s Unpredictable Schedule
By Eleanor Pearson, 18, Contributor Originally Published: October 2, 2017Revised: September 5, 2018
When I first got my period, I had no clue what a “normal” period was. Now I know that a typical menstrual cycle is 21-35 days, with a period lasting between two and seven days. However, irregular periods are incredibly common in teenagers.
When your period acts up, it’s only natural to panic and think that you’re pregnant (if you have been sexually active) or that something is wrong. But irregular periods are caused by a variety of things. For example, if you only got your first period a few years ago, it’s really common for it to come at unexpected times, to last a different number of days each time and even to not have another period for quite some time. This is because your body is adjusting to different levels of hormones. It’s even normal to have irregular periods later in life. So many things can change your hormone levels, and it’s only natural that your cycle gets caught up in the mix! Read on to learn other reasons why your period may be following its own schedule.
If you have a lot on your plate or are under stress for any reason, your period may also be impacted.
Can I Blame My Contraception?
If you’re using hormonal contraception—the Pill, implant, patch, injection or intrauterine device (IUD)—you may experience changes to your cycle. From your periods becoming very light or disappearing to spotting for weeks at a time, hormonal contraception can cause cycle changes. Sometimes these changes go away with time and are usually nothing to worry about.
However, when Olivia, 17, from England, first started using an IUD, she spotted for about six months: “I was really unhappy. When I talked to my doctor, she was able to talk me through my options about what I could do to stay protected but also avoid spotting.”
It’s important to remember that if you’re on hormonal birth control and unhappy with the changes to your cycle, you should discuss it with your health care provider. Solutions exist and you can always change your birth control if you feel it’s not working for you.
Weight loss—either due to changes in diet or exercise—can also have a massive impact on your cycle. For instance, if you’re athletic and have a low fat-to-muscle ratio, you might stop getting your period. Not getting enough calories could affect your cycle, too.
“When I first got my period…I was underweight,” shares Jessie, 16, from New Brunswick, NJ. “I wasn’t eating enough and therefore I barely got my period. Once I started eating more and gained weight, I got it regularly.”
If you haven’t had a period in several months, it’s important that you talk to your health care provider. Your estrogen levels might be low, which can lead to complications, or you may have a hormonal imbalance for some other reason. You won’t know for sure until you talk to your health care provider.
If you have a lot on your plate or are under stress for any reason, your period may also be impacted. If you think this might be what’s causing changes to your cycle, then this is good news. Resting and taking time for yourself is the best way to solve the problem! Seeing friends, playing sports, taking a bath, etc. are all great ways to de-stress and look after yourself. Learning to manage stress levels is important, so it’s good to learn when you’re still young!
Of course, there are other causes of menstrual changes, so talking to your health care provider is the easiest way to find out what is causing your cycle to act up. And, as I mentioned, it might take some time for a teen’s cycle to figure itself out. One quick piece of advice is to track your periods! There are plenty of ways to do this and lots of apps that you can download. If you track your period, you’ll be able to share the ins and outs of what’s going on with your period when you do speak to a health care professional about any concerns. Knowing this info will help your health care provider figure out if there is a reason to be concerned about your irregular periods. Knowledge is power!
*Eleanor Pearson is a contributor who lives in England.
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