Most women experience painful cramps, bloating, mood swings and irritability during their periods. Medically termed as menstruation, it occurs every month when the lining of the uterus, also called endometrium, is shed. The ovaries release oestrogen and progesterone, the female hormones, that build up the uterine lining, which then waits for a fertilised egg to attach. In case there is no egg, the lining breaks and bleeds, leading to menstruation. If all is good, you’re likely to have a normal menstrual cycle, with no complications. However, some women may suffer from menstrual disorders. Dr Deepti Sharma, Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, discusses what they are and ways to manage them.
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What Is A Menstrual Disorder?
Menstrual disorders, as the term itself suggests, are problems associated with a woman's menstrual cycle. Symptoms usually include:
- Painful cramps
- Heavy abnormal bleeding or no bleeding at all
- Missed period
- Irritability or intense mood swings
- Emotional distress
Dr Sharma says, “Menstrual disorders are the most common reason why women seek consultation with the gynaecologist. It is essential for women to be aware of the potential causes of irregular periods and seek medical attention if they experience significant changes in their menstrual cycles.”
“By understanding the causes of irregular menstruation, women can take proactive steps to maintain their reproductive health and overall well-being,” she adds.
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Types Of Menstrual Disorder
There are several types of menstrual disorders, but some of the most common are listed below:
Dysmenorrhea is characterised by painful menstrual cramps during menstruation. They are divided into categories namely primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by a chemical imbalance that occurs in the uterine lining, leading to cramping pain. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea causes painful periods caused by a health condition, such as endometriosis.
Amenorrhea refers to an absence of menstrual periods, commonly known as missed period. Again, there are two types of amenorrhea: Primary and Secondary. Primary amenorrhea occurs when one does not get their period at puberty, whereas secondary amenorrhea is when normal menstrual cycle starts becoming irregular or absent.
Hypomenorrhea refers to an extremely light period. It is associated with abnormally low bleeding. Usually, the menstruation lasts for less than two days or the amount of bleeding is less than 80ml.
Menorrhagia is the complete opposite of hypomenorrhea. It is associated with very heavy and consistent bleeding. There are different types of this condition, most common being polymenorrhea, which means very frequent bleeding.
Factors That Lead To Irregular Periods
According to Dr Sharma, occurrence of irregular cycles is fairly common during the initial two years after having the first period. This is driven by hormonal changes at the time of puberty. However, if it is persistent, it could cause significant distress and can affect daily activities and social life of young girls, says the doctor.
Irregular cycles can occur due to various factors, such as:
Dr Sharma says, “The menstrual cycle is regulated by the hormonal interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the ovaries. Any disruption in the balance of these hormones can cause irregular menstrual cycles. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and adrenal gland disorders are common causes and can easily be picked up by hormone profile assessment.”
When the body experiences stress, it releases the hormone cortisol, which can disrupt the menstrual cycle by inhibiting the production of other hormones involved in menstruation. Dr Sharma says, “Stress can lead to changes in eating habits and sleep patterns which impact the release of regulatory hormones at the hypothalamus and pituitary level.”
Excessive exercise, weight loss or weight gain with considerable alteration in the body fat proportion can disturb the delicate balance of hormones in the body. Similarly, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use can also disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause irregular periods.
Underlying medical conditions
Conditions such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) can lead to irregular and heavy bleeding. In addition, certain medications, such as those used to treat epilepsy and depression, can also cause menstrual irregularities.
Things To Remember
When it comes to tracking and understanding menstrual disorders, here are a few important things to bear in mind:
- Maintain a menstrual calendar as it helps in understanding the correct menstrual pattern
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise
- Don’t indulge in rapid weight loss by heavy exercise or dieting
- Treat underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, obesity or PCOS
- Public health awareness plays a crucial role in educating women about menstrual health and promoting the importance of regular check-ups
Every woman is prone to menstrual disorders. The key is to be vigilant. One must be able to identify the signs, the symptoms of the condition and must take necessary steps to manage them. Remember, any changes in the body should be addressed immediately. Visit a healthcare provider to understand what you’re going through and receive necessary treatments to avoid complications.