Irregular Menstruation

Are your periods healthy?

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The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, with bleeding lasting between 2 & 5 days. This means that if you count the first day of your bleed as day 1, your next period will start around 28 days after this. Some variation is normal, but if your cycle is especially short or long, or if you are experiencing excessively light or very heavy periods, you may have irregular menstruation.

The doctor will ask you to discuss your symptoms & ask you about your periods – how regular they are, how heavy or light, & so on. An internal examination of the vagina & cervix may or may not be necessary. Depending on your symptoms, the doctor may suggest blood test to check for hormonal imbalances, iron levels, & other markers.


If your periods are particularly heavy, light, erratic, and/or you are experiencing bleeding between periods, it is best to see a doctor to make sure that your body is healthy & working as it should be. Irregular menstruation may be caused by changes in your hormone levels (oestrogen & progesterone), medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, endometriosis, thyroid disorders, or a change in contraception.


It is wise to see a doctor should you have any of the following:

  • Heavy periods (menorrhagia). Normal blood loss for a period is around 2-4 tablespoons (30-60 ml), although it can be difficult to gauge the amount! A good way to know if your flow is excessively heavy is if you are having to change your pads or tampons every hour or two, or if you are unable to contain your flow with pads. You may also be passing large blood clots (dark clumps of blood).
  • Bleeding for less than 2 or more than 7 days
  • Unusually short or long menstrual cycle (bleeding at three-week intervals, or less frequently than every five weeks)
  • Irregular bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Severe pain throughout the course of a whole period
  • Periods becoming gradually more painful
  • Stopped periods (amenorrhoea). Missing several periods in a row is unusual, & could be an indication of hormonal problems


Some hormone-related symptoms associated with a healthy period include water retention (bloating or swelling of the belly & abdomen), tender or swollen breasts, mood swings & irritable feelings before menstruation. When these symptoms are severe, they are called premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual tension (PMS or PMT). Some pain during the first day or two of bleeding is normal (dysmenorrhoea).

However, if any of these symptoms of your period & menstrual cycle interfere with your daily life, it is a good idea to come in & speak to someone. Our doctors are highly experienced in diagnosing menstrual conditions & can help you get relief.

Types of

There are several different conditions that have abnormal bleeding as a symptom, including endometriosis, irregular hormone levels (oestrogen, progesterone, insulin, or thyroid hormones), contraceptive methods, PCOS, cysts, fibroids, pregnancy, miscarriage, or functional uterine problems.


What causes irregular periods?

Irregular periods have a range of causes. These include cysts & fibroids (benign growths), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine conditions such as endometriosis, & hormonal imbalances. Some sexually transmitted infections can affect your menstrual flow. In rare cases, some cancers can affect the regularity of your period.

Can contraception affect the regularity of my period?

Yes, changing your contraceptive pill or intrauterine device (IUD or coil) can interrupt your regular cycle. These changes usually calm down after a month or two as your body gets used to the new method. If you have just started a new method of contraception, it’s important to discuss any changes with your doctor.

How do I know whether my periods are regular?

If you are in doubt as to whether your premenstrual symptoms are normal, or whether you have regular periods, it can be helpful to keep a record. There are many free apps that allow you to track your period, or you could simply make a note in your diary. Note the first day of your bleed, & any symptoms that you notice (PMS, breast tenderness, number of days of your bleed, cramping, & heaviness of flow).