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Irregular menstrual cycles are all about TIMING.
Sometimes women use the term “irregular” when their periods don’t seem normal to them. Irregular cycles do NOT simply mean cycles that are heavy, have inconsistent symptoms, or those with fluctuating moods. However, all of those things could accompany an irregular cycle.
A cycle is considered irregular when periods occur with inconsistent timing outside of a “normal” range of cycle days, or when sporadic bleeding patterns are occurring during the cycle. Typically this happens for 3 consecutive periods before being diagnosed as irregular.
What is the “normal” range of cycle days?
Around 26-35 days is the normal range of days in each cycle. Ideally, your cycle length will be about the same each month, give or take a day or two. A very small percentage of women have a 28 day cycle every month.
What could an irregular cycle mean?
This depends on other symptoms that might be occurring and just how irregular the cycles are.
For someone with cycles that last several months between periods, this could indicate that they may not be ovulating and could have a gynecological condition that needs to be diagnosed by a GP or specialist.
Someone having consistently longer cycles that vary in days but are closer to the “normal” range, it could indicate a hormonal imbalance, often where oestrogen is dominant. They might have cycles that vary between 35 and 60 days.
In these cases, there are typically other oestrogen dominance symptoms, such as PMS, bloating, breast tenderness and fullness, heavy periods, and painful cramps.
Irregular cycles can also be part of the natural transition during peri-menopause. Many women in their mid to late 40s will find that irregular periods alongside other changes in their periods are an indication that they are approaching menopause.
It is especially tricky when you are trying to conceive and are having irregular cycles. Many patients that come to me with irregular cycles are trying to conceive, so getting the length of their cycle to be consistent really helps us to know when their fertile window will be.
Dr. Sarah Hennessey (TCM) is a registered acupuncturist and herbalist. She has worked in women’s health for the past 8 years. Her background is in Western health science and traditional Chinese medicine. She lives in Melbourne, Australia where she runs her own clinic, South East Natural Health. When she’s not helping women sort out their health concerns, she enjoys making memories with her 3-year-old daughter.