Women's Services Encyclopedia
Although many women’s menstrual cycles are as regular as clockwork,
some women experience irregularly spaced menstrual periods.
Irregular periods can be caused by many factors. Your doctor will want to first determine whether you are ovulating properly. Normal menstrual
bleeding follows ovulation if fertilization does not occur.
There are a variety of ways to determine whether you are ovulating:
- Many women identify a change in the cervical mucous when ovulation occurs.
- Some women spot slightly and feel a pain in the lower abdomen when the ovary releases its monthly egg. This has been given
the descriptive name of “middleschmertz” ( or “middle pain”).
- Basal body temperature rises by about 0.5 degrees Farenheit at ovulation, and remains elevated until menstrual bleeding begins.
Taking your temperature each morning with a basal body temperature thermometer, carefully following its directions, will help to tell you whether
you are ovulating.
- There are also several self-test kits on the market which, when used properly, can tell you whether you are ovulating.
- If your doctor feels your problem warrants more investigation, he may perform blood tests to check your hormone levels.
Hormonal therapy can be ordered to solve the problem, but hormones should be prescribed carefully.
- Emotional stress and physical stress, such as that induced by extreme exercise or illness, can change your hormonal levels
enough so that ovulation is often stopped until the problem is resolved.
- Women with anorexia nervosa often stop ovulating.
- Obese women often stop ovulating until they lose weight. Body fat can produce estrogen, and the excess upsets the body’s
- Women with abnormal thyroid function, especially those with a low thyroid production, often do not ovulate. Treatment with
thyroid medication usually solves this problem.
If you are experiencing irregular menstruation, you should be thoroughly and completely evaluated, because menstrual problems may often be a signal that something else is wrong.
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