Half awake, I crawl to my dorm bathroom in the middle of the hall, fighting the urge to go back to bed at 7 o’clock in the morning. “Why did I register for an 8-a.m. class?” I asked myself for the hundredth time this semester. As I listed the pros and cons of possibly skipping lecture, I noticed my blood-stained underwear. For a second, I thought my brain was playing tricks on me. I already had my period this month. I have never had two menstrual cycles in one month before; after all, it’s supposed to cycle monthly, right? Is this my body’s way of doubly assuring me that I am absolutely not pregnant and menopause is definitely not going to happen soon? Should I be relieved? What kind of message is nature sending me?
As a savvy iPhone user, I quickly tap on my trusty WebMD app in search of the cause of my situation. In a millisecond, I was prompted with a slew of reasons for my irregular menstrual cycle. Apparently, a slew of factors can cause an aberrant cycle: excessive weight loss or weight gain, eating disorders, emotional stress, travel, illness, illegal drugs, birth control, pelvic organ problems, breastfeeding, and hormonal changes.
Although my teenage years are behind me, I’ve actually unintentionally stimulated a hormone fluctuation. As a volunteer labor coach for Asian Health Services, I coach immigrant mothers who do not speak English through labor by translating the instructions of the doctors and nurses. The week prior to the surprise arrival of my second period, I helped a mother and had the pleasure of holding her baby while she rested. Unbeknownst to me, holding a baby stimulated the production of oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” in my body. A hormone that primarily regulates uterine contractions to help complete delivery in a pregnant mother, oxytocin also takes part in stimulating contractions that lead to uterine expulsion and menstruation. So, I guess a cute baby disrupted my regular menstrual cycle and consequently caused me a great deal of pain.
Though it was evident that an adorable baby was the culprit to my entire ordeal, I was curious to see if menstruation irregularities can be a sign to more serious problems or should be a cause for concern. To my relief, irregular periods are actually not too uncommon. According to EverydayHealth.com, “at least 30% of women have irregular periods during their childbearing years.” Since the phrase “childbearing years” can be defined as anywhere from puberty to your forties, you can bet that many women are experiencing irregular periods. But that is not to say you should completely disregard these inconsistencies.
Irregular periods can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). PCOS results in the formation of a cyst on the ovaries that in turn causes problems in ovulation. If you notice that your menstrual irregularity is accompanied with excessive hair growth, weight gain, dandruff, acne, and/or high blood pressure, you may want to contact a health professional for a checkup, for these are common symptoms of PCOS. Alternatively, if you experience weight loss, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea, you may want to check to see if you have inflammatory bowel disease, which is the inflammation of lower intestines.
All in all, if you encounter an irregular period, there is no great need to panic. Simply be aware of what your body is possibly trying to tell you and do your best to cater to its needs. At the end of the day, we can’t do much in our lives without the cooperation of our physical bodies.
Article by Ellison Chen
Feature Image Source: The Quint