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Irregular Periods

Irregular periods are one of the first signs a woman is approaching menopause.

Most women will experience irregularity for 3 to 10 years.

What causes irregular periods?

There are several factors that can cause irregular periods but for women approaching menopause they are most likely brought on by fluctuating hormone levels. This will typically happen between the ages of 45 to 55.

Estrogen and progesterone both play an important role in menstruation – estrogen is responsible for thickening the uterine lining before ovulation and progesterone acts as a trigger to discard the uterine contents after ovulation if fertilization has not occurred.

Production of these hormones starts to decrease during peri-menopause, their levels often fluctuating wildly before they settle to a constant low. It is this fluctuation that creates irregular periods in menopausal women.

However, all women of reproductive age can experience cycle irregularities at some stage in their lives, that are not related to menopause. These can be the result of health conditions or lifestyle triggers so if in doubt professional health advice should be sought.

What is an irregular period?

A typical menstrual cycle is defined as ranging from 21- 35 days with menstrual flow lasting for 3-5 days.

The average amount of blood loss is 2-8 tablespoons. However some women may have a different “normal” to this.

The definition of irregular periods is when a woman experiences an alteration in their typical menstrual cycle that continue for several months.

Signs of irregular periods include longer or shorter cycles, missed periods, abnormal duration of bleeding, changes in blood flow, painful cramping and blood clots.

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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.