Menstrual Cycles. Every woman has to deal with it on some level. Some women count, others have no idea what’s going on down there. There are women out there that have cycles like clockwork and those that can’t rely on any regularity of their cycle. These women are constantly playing a guessing game about when their next period is due. Let’s take a look at some of the issues around an irregular menstrual cycle, and what can help create a regular one.
What is a regular menstrual cycle?
The length of a normal cycle would be anywhere between 26-35 days long. This means Day 1 is the day you begin your period, and the time between then and your next period is your cycle length.
Most people think a regular cycle is 28 days only. This isn’t true. Apparently only 20% of the population have a 28 day cycle. This means they’re the minority!
What does an irregular menstrual cycle look like?
Periods not occurring frequently enough
(You feel like you’re waiting forever, even given up hope of a period)
This may show up as a long cycle, meaning consistently over 35 days. It could be 37 days one month, 45 days the next month, 35 days the next month and then 60 days the following month. This often is a presentation of someone who may have Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.
These women can be Oestrogen Dominant and require some intervention to get on top of it. Mainstream medicine medicates you, although Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs offer good options for hormone regulation.
If Testosterone or Androgen levels are high as in the case of women with unwanted facial hair, weight gain & insulin resistance, then a different Chinese Herbal Formula applies.
Seeing a Registered Acupuncturist & Herbal Medicine Practitioner makes a whole world of difference as they’re more likely to make these distinctions and prescribe correctly.
Coming Off The Pill
(You get a hopeful niggle like a pre-menstrual pain and then nothing)
Long term use of the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) can cause an irregular menstrual cycle when you finally come off it again. This means if you’re intending to have a baby, you really need to give your body time to regulate your cycle and even better some more time to conceive once this is running smoothly again.
I fully appreciate not all of us have time on our side, but if you do, giving your body a complete break between the OCP and conception is ideal. Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine can help accelerate this phase with balancing and optimising your hormones. For more on The OCP and how it affects your Fertility, read this post.
The bottom line is once you remove that chemical instruction of the OCP, the body
- Has to get back into it’s own cycle again. (This takes time for some women, not a luxury we all have)
- This relies on efficient Ovulation, which may have ceased with OCP use. (Called Temporary Ovarian Failure)
- May be facing those same issues you had when you first started the OCP.
Consistent cycle, then phases of irregularity
(You feel like you’re cycle is going start-stop-start-stop)
Stress can often delay ovulation or a period.
So if normally you are regular, but one month at work is crazy or the loss of a loved one happens, it’s not surprising that you can go through phases of having an irregular menstrual cycle. For the time you’re stressed, your cycle may be out and that can be for months (2, 3, even 6 cycles that are irregular). But once the stress passes, you go back to a phase of regularity.
Women that experience frequent stress may notice that the months they’re stressed, they have irregular menstrual cycles, than when they’re not stressed. Stress is a disruptor to the delicate feedback loops between the Brain and the Ovaries. Think of the Brain as the control centre and the Ovaries and the receiving end of those messages.
Stress management techniques are a lifeline for these people. Meditating, Swimming, general exercise, Yoga, Pilates, Taichi is really important for these women to move their stagnant energy. This is how Chinese Medicine looks at stress – our Qi gets stuck easily when we’re stressed.
If you have stuck qi there is often something showing up in your period cycle as a problem, especially the regularity of the cycle. This can be finishing a period and then some spotting and then finishing again. Or it could be clockwork for 3 months then all over the place for 4 months.
Periods occurring too frequently
(You think to yourself: “Again? So soon? Why me?!?”)
I’ve had clients say they’re experiencing periods twice in the month. In my opinion there is one that is the “true period” and the other is inter-menstrual bleeding. This means bleeding mid cycle or at other times in the cycle away from the expected “true period”.
For these clients I would recommend stress management techniques and definitely some Acupuncture or Chinese Herbs to secure the Chong Mai. This is TCM speak for nourishing the blood and regulating the energy again.
If you have a Short cycle, you may be experiencing a period every 25 days or less.
Firstly, I recommend women to chart their temperatures (check out this template on my resources page to get started)
Secondly, which part of your cycle is short? It could be the first half (follicular) or the second half (luteal).
If Follicular phase is short (10-12 days) and you’re trying to conceive, this really isn’t enough time for your follicles and eggs to be developing before ovulation. The eggs need time to fully mature and be ready.
If your Luteal phase is short, you may have issues with implantation or possibly recurrent miscarriage, as there needs to be ample Progesterone here to sustain a pregnancy in those early weeks, until the Placenta fully develops. Progesterone is initiated by the leftovers of ovulation, the Corpus Luteum.
So ultimately everything comes back to ovulation. If you ovulate well, you have a good quality egg that has fully developed and been released during ovulation. The Corpus Luteum, left behind in the ovary stimulates Progesterone and determines the length of the luteal phase.
What can I do about it?
If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, you don’t have to put up with it, you CAN do something about it to help your body. Stop feeling helpless and start some Natural Therapy Treatment to get the ball rolling with cycle regulation.
If you’re on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and interested in Acupuncture, email me at email@example.com to chat with me about your situation and how we can get you re-booted with a regular cycle. Women often simply feel better in themselves when their hormones are optimised and their cycle is regular.