Irregular cycle: causes & treatment options

You’ve got an irregular cycle – what can you do? What causes an irregular cycle? And when does ovulation occur in an irregular cycle? Find out more about irregular periods, the definition of these, and stress as one of the potential causes.

05.06.2024 Daniela Schori 4 minutes

What is an irregular cycle?

Specialists use the term cycle irregularities to refer to menstruation that does not take place at regular intervals. On average, a woman’s cycle lasts 28 days, with variations of anywhere from 25 to 31 days deemed normal. Menstruation lasts four to five days on average. Irregular periods affect many women because cycle durations always fluctuate slightly. It depends on the scale and frequency.

Reasons for irregular periods

An irregular cycle can have many potential causes – from hormonal and genetic disorders to gynaecological issues like myomas, and right through to lifestyle.

Irregular menstruation due to stress

Sometimes irregular periods can also be caused by stress. In stressful phases, your body switches to survival mode, temporarily shutting down non-vital functions. Such functions also include a woman’s cycle. The result is an irregular cycle/period.

It’s worth noting that stress can cause more than just irregular cycles. Stress can also predispose you to premenstrual syndrome (or PMS for short). That’s because hormonal balance and PMS are closely connected. Stress stimulates the production of the hormone prolactin, which in turn indirectly influences the balance of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Irregular cycles after birth

After childbirth, you are likely to experience an irregular cycle. This is associated with the hormonal changes your body goes through, which means your period coming irregularly at first. If you breastfeed, you period is also likely to resume later. This is due to the hormone prolactin. It is generated when breastfeeding and impedes ovulation. But breastfeeding is not a reliable method of contraception.

Irregular menstruation will subside in time – but your new cycle may differ from the cycle you had prior to pregnancy.

Irregular cycles during puberty and menopause

Women in menopause and girls going through puberty experience hormonal fluctuations, so irregular cycles during menopause and puberty are normal.

Periods are irregular during puberty because the body has yet to develop a hormonal rhythm. Cycles usually shorten in the first three years after the menarche, as the first period is called. It takes up to six years for irregular periods to subside after puberty. After this time, they will follow a regular pattern.

Irregular periods can make a reappearance once you reach 40. The functioning of the ovaries can start to diminish as early as this age. The cycle then lengthens or shortens, and the menopause begins. The average age for starting the menopause, i.e. the last menstrual bleed, is 52.

Irregular cycles: illness as a cause

Illness can also lead to irregular cycles. Reasons include endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS for short). Endometriosis is when the endometrial lining grows outside the womb. This can lead to intense pain, cycle irregularities and other symptoms. PCOS is a metabolic disease where small water-filled bubbles form on the ovaries. Women with PCOS frequently experience an absence of or irregular periods and no ovulation. Diabetes, weight deficiency or benign cysts can also lead to cycle disruption.

Important: Ongoing irregular cycles often have a cause that should ideally be clarified with your gynaecologist.

Irregular cycle: what can you do about it?

Your period is irregular – what can you do? If you experience irregular cycles without any underlying illness, you can take various supportive measures to normalise your hormone balance. Initial steps to address an irregular cycle might include:

  • Diet: Eat a balanced diet. Avoid crash dieting or diets with a lack of variety. Alcohol also influences hormones. And nicotine is best avoided.
  • Exercise: Get sufficient exercise. Extreme sport, on the other hand, can extend your cycle and cause you to miss a period.
  • Relaxation: Reduce physical and emotional stress. This can impact your hormonal balance, potentially resulting in cycle irregularities. Reduce stress with a suitable relaxation method. For example, adopt some breathing techniques or try yoga.

Important: Consult your doctor before trying natural remedies like Monk's pepper and discuss which treatment methods are suitable in your case

Can you get pregnant even with an irregular cycle?

Do you have an irregular cycle but want to have children? You can still get pregnant even if you have an irregular cycle. But it can take longer because ovulation is also irregular.

How can you tell your fertile days despite an irregular cycle? Ovulation can vary depending on the length of your cycle. Ovulation during irregular cycles can be calculated using a cycle computer.

However, some women with cycle irregularities do not ovulate – getting pregnant is more difficult but is possible, with a hormone treatment, for example. Seek medical advice and address your desire to have children early on.

If you have an irregular cycle, you are likely to be wondering when you should take a pregnancy test. As a rule, take the test around two weeks after the last time you had unprotected sex. The longer you wait, the more reliable the result, even with an irregular cycle. When you are late technically depends on your ovulation: periods generally occur 14 to 16 days after ovulation.

Irregular cycle – when should you see a doctor?

You should seek medical attention for irregular periods if your cycle or menstruation changes or you experience pain in your lower abdomen or other symptoms. The same applies if you want to get pregnant.

Read more

The menstrual cycle in simple terms
How long does a woman’s cycle last and how does it affect her mood? Learn all about the menstrual cycle.
June 5, 2024 7 minutes

PMS: when hormones go haywire
From joy to despair: every month, the second half of the cycle is challenging for many women. You can find information about PMS here.
June 9, 2022 7 minutes


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