The menstrual cycle is a central fact in most women’s lives, and when it doesn’t arrive as scheduled, it can be a scary proposition for any woman. The truth is, though, that problems with the menstrual cycle are actually quite common and something about which every woman should be educated. The menstrual cycle generally runs between 21 and 35 days, however, it isn’t uncommon for a woman to have an occasional cycle outside of that norm. Both the shorter and longer cycles can have similar causes, many related to pregnancy or birth control.
The Effect of Birth Control
Various methods of birth control can cause both long and short cycles. If the pill has too little estrogen, it can cause skipped and lighter periods. If the woman’s cycle is normally longer, the pill will make it run in a shorter 28-day cycle. Norplant and Depo-Provera birth control methods can cause skipped periods and longer cycles.
Other Common Causes of Cycle Disturbances
Another cause of missed or late periods is undiagnosed pregnancy. Unless a woman regularly tracks her cycle, it is easy to forget when menstruation should occur, and unless other symptoms of pregnancy are present, she may not realize the fact for a few months. After a women gives birth, especially if she breast feeds, her cycle may be longer than normal. Of course, age is also a culprit in both longer and shorter cycles. At the onset of menarche and again at the onset of menopause, a woman’s cycle can vary widely from month to month. Extremes of weight can cause both longer cycles and even absence of menstruation. Lastly, one of the most common causes of cycle disturbances is emotional stress.
Not So Common Causes of Menstrual Problems
One less common causes of cycle disturbances is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), a badly named illness since the primary issue appears to be metabolic and not ovarian in nature. PCOS is found in less than 5% of women and causes symptoms of weight gain, acne, and possibly facial hair along with irregular or nonexistent cycles. Another less common cause is hypothyroidism, where the body does not produce enough thyroid to meet the body’s need. This causes very irregular cycles as well as very heavy flow and cramps. A cyst or tumor within the ovary can also disrupt cycles.
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