Once you’ve understood what causes your cycle to derail, there are things you can do to regulate it so you too can plan your next visit to the spa and lighten up your handbag…
When it comes to menstrual cycles, there’s no such thing as “normal.” It makes more sense to talk about what’s normal for you. For teenagers, a normal cycle can be anywhere from 21 to 45 days.
For adults under 40, “normal” tends to be between 21 and 35 days. And generally speaking, the first and last two years of menstruation tend to be erratic. With time, young girls can expect their cycle to become regular.
What derails your cycle?
Factors other than these “times of upheaval” can influence menstrual regularity or completely disrupt your menstrual cycle:
- Sudden weight loss: a low body weight often leads to amenorrhea, a.k.a. missed periods. Dietary issues such as anorexia and bulimia can also be the cause.
- Conversely, obesity can also cause menstrual problems.
- Endurance sports can be problematic: athletes who train intensively can see their periods stop completely because their body doesn’t have enough fat to produce estrogen. The risk of osteoporosis is also something to look out for.
- Emotional stress (death in the family, divorce, job loss) and travel: high stress levels can affect the hypothalamus and cause irregular periods.
- Hormonal contraceptives: menstrual flow can be lighter or even non-existent.
- The use of hard drugs and certain medications, including antidepressants and chemotherapy.
- Breastfeeding: some women’s periods stop until their baby is fully weaned.
- Hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by thyroid problems.
- Uterine scars following surgery.
When your period is over eight days late, start with a pregnancy test: after all, other than foregoing sex entirely, no contraceptive method is foolproof. If you’re not pregnant and you’ve missed two periods in a row, consult your doctor.
And the fact that you haven’t had your period for a long time or that your menses are irregular doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant. If you’re not trying to have a baby, be careful!
The means to an end
Of course, how you get things back on track depends on what ails you.
If it’s your weight, food will play a big role in getting you back on the road to a healthy weight, which is usually defined by your BMI (body mass index). As tempting as they may be, avoid the latest fad diets. A well balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids will have a much more lasting effect.
Need to learn how to deal with stress? Playing sports regularly can help you relax. Also, some plants are particularly effective at helping us stay calm. For example, rhodiola helps us build resistance to stress and overcome fatigue. Passionflower is a nerve tonic particularly useful in times of great stress.
If your periods are always unpredictable, Vitex agnus castus may be what you’re looking for. The plant works by gradually regulating progesterone production. Once it reaches its full effectiveness—this takes around three months—it results in regular periods and relieves PMS symptoms. However, it should be avoided by women who are breastfeeding or using hormonal contraceptives such as the pill or the Mirena intrauterine device.
Don’t lose hope: in a few months, a little clutch purse will be enough for your nights on the town, and you’ll be able to plan your trip to the spa well in advance…