Irregular menstruation-periods that are shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between them-is usually the first sign our bodies give us that is near. While it’s considered a symptom of menopause, irregular periods are actually a perimenopause symptom that occurs during the years leading up to full menopause. In any case, since irregular periods can go on for six years or more, it helps to know what to expect and how you can manage your cycle
How menopause affects the menstrual cycle
As you’d expect, the crazy periods that come along with menopause are caused by lower levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. As levels of these hormones decline, your pituitary gland sends out more of the hormone that stimulates the follicles. While your body is busy try to get levels of these hormones to balance out, your menstrual cycle is caught in the crossfire.
Heavy periods during menopause
Oestrogen and progesterone regulate the thickening of the lining of the uterus that’s shed each month during menstruation. When levels of these hormones get out of whack, the lining can become thicker than usual. That, of course, results in heavier bleeding when the lining is shed.
You could experience excess menstruation for six years or more before your periods stop.
Missing periods and more frequent periods
Skipping periods during menopause is also fairly common. Many women skip periods for several months in a row, while others have one only every other month. Menopause being the individual experience that it is, other women experience the exact opposite: more frequent periods. Women with this symptom have a regular cycle, but the cycle is shorter than the usual 28 days.
Longer or shorter periods
Longer periods happen to a fair amount of women, too. Some women entering menopause find their periods going on for up to three weeks, although flow is usually minimal. On the other hand, you could get off easy and end up having periods that last just a day or two.
This symptom of menopause can be rather disturbing because while most of us have heard about the heavy periods and irregular cycles, having watery periods doesn’t get mentioned much. It does happen fairly frequently, though, usually to women who experience heavy periods. While watery periods are usually nothing to worry about, if there’s a chance you could be pregnant, make sure you don’t have an ectopic pregnancy. If you experience abdominal pain, see a doctor.
Treatments for irregular periods
One of the simplest ways to normalize your menstruation is to make sure you’re getting enough B complex vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. All these nutrients have been shown to help normalize the menstrual cycle. If you’d like to try herbs, black cohosh and chasteberry tree are good choices.
Irregular periods, especially heavy periods and longer periods are part an parcel of menopause for most women. As annoying as it is, you can rest assured that it will pass, although it may take a few years. In the meantime, you may to try a natural treatment for irregular periods such as herbs or natural progesterone.