For regular periods
Menstruation is controlled and triggered by signals sent by hormones produced in the body, namely oestrogen and progesterone. Any fluctuation in periods indicates a disruption in the natural chain of hormonal events.
On an average, a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. However, the cycle can be considered normal anywhere from 24 to 38 days, if it is consistent. Menstrual bleeding usually lasts two to seven days, with the average being five days. If it stretches to eight to 10 days or more, that’s considered prolonged bleeding. A normal cycle also requires changing sanitary napkins three or four times a day. If a change is required every hour for the whole day, then the bleeding can be considered abnormally heavy.
Irregularities in the menstrual cycle could occur in any of the following forms:
- A missed period — does not occur for a month or more.
- A delayed period — gets delayed by a week or more than its actual cycle of 28 days.
- An early period — occurs seven to 10 days before the actual date of the menstrual cycle.
- Periods that occur twice in a cycle, i.e., twice a month.
- Menorrhagia — heavy bleeding with large clots.
- Oligomenorrhea — scanty bleeding.
The following lifestyle factors can also upset the balance of hormones and cause irregular bleeding:
- Extreme weight loss or weight gain. Having a BMI that’s either too high or too low can prevent ovulation, leading to irregular periods.
- Excessive exercise. Experts advise that one should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week to stay healthy. One must always remember that more exercise isn’t always better!
Broadly speaking, stress can suppress the hormones that regulate ovulation (the process of an egg being released from one of the ovaries).
- If ovulation doesn’t happen, chances of a missed period will be quite high.
Certain medications like hormones, contraceptives, blood thinners, chemotherapy, antibiotics, and anti-psychotic drugs may change the bleeding pattern. Other factors that can cause change in the menstrual cycle can include:
- Eating disorders including a diet high in carbohydrates
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome: a condition that causes infrequent, irregular, or prolonged periods
- A thyroid disorder is another possible but rare cause of irregular periods
- Uterine abnormalities (fibroids, cysts, polyps, endometriosis)
- Recent childbirth, miscarriage, or D&C (Dilation & Curettage)
- Excessive smoking and caffeine intake
- Excessive intake of alcohol, which can interfere with the metabolism of oestrogen and progesterone in the liver.
Treatment for irregular periods isn’t always necessary.
A one-off irregular period may not be cause for alarm! One may wait a few more cycles to see if the irregularity persists.
There are many women who face period problems in terms of either timing or the amount of bleeding at some point during their menstrual years. This happens mostly due to a cycle without a normal ovulation, especially at the start of menstruation in adolescence. In such cases, normal periods may resume as early as the next period, or could take a few months to become regular again.
Irregular periods at the age of 45 years and above can signal the beginning of menopause. This can cause the menstrual cycle to become longer or shorter and the periods may become lighter or heavier. If irregular periods are caused by age-related factors, it usually doesn’t need any specific treatment.
Stress or sudden weight loss may be one of the causes of irregular periods. Relaxation techniques, stress management or counselling may be helpful.
For excessive bleeding:
Grind a few bael leaves into a fine paste. Take 1 teaspoon of this paste with water.
- Boil 1 teaspoon of coarsely powdered coriander (dhania) seeds in 100 ml of water till it is reduced to half. Add sugar candy (mishri) to taste and drink when lukewarm. Repeat twice or thrice a day.
- Regular consumption of raisins (munakka) helps curb excessive bleeding during periods.
- Grind the whole plant of ‘touch-me-not’ into a fine paste. Take precautions to remove thorns, if any. Take 1 teaspoon of this fine paste with a cup of ‘rice washed water’.
For delayed menstruation:
- Take half a teaspoon of finely ground cinnamon (dalchini) along with 1 cup of milk every night.
- Drink 20 ml aloe vera juice, twice daily, every day before meals.
The following medicines may be consumed for 3-6 consecutive cycles till the menstrual cycle is regularised:
- Ashokarishta (any reputed pharmacy) — 4 teaspoonfuls twice daily with equal quantity of water, after meals.
- Himalaya’s Evecare syrup (15 ml, twice daily) or Evecare Capsules (2-0-2).
- Shatavari guda (Pentacare Ayurpharma) / Shatavari kalpa (Baidyanath) — 1 tsp twice daily or Shatavari tablets (Himalaya) 2-0-2 tablets, before meals.
In case of excessive bleeding, Bolbaddha ras (Baidyanath / Dhootpapeshwar) 1 tablet twice daily after meals or Pushyanuga churna (Kottakkal / Baidyanath) 1 teaspoonful twice daily with a cup of rice washed water will be helpful. Despite the above measures, if there’s no remission in symptoms, a gynaecologist must be consulted to rule out any other serious underlying causes.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 17 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company