Very few people who get periods enjoy getting periods. They can be painful, messy, embarrassing, and the hormonal changes can seriously impact your mental health. Even so, having periods that are irregular–especially if they come too early or too late–can be frightening.
We’re here to talk about what “regular” periods really mean, what causes them, and some things you can do at home to gain a little more menstrual regularity.
What Defines a Regular Period?
Here are a few metrics that help define a regular period–and how to know if yours are irregular (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2021):
Most periods are between 21 and 35 days apart. There’s not a lot of standardization between those two times–it’s more about what’s regular for you than what’s regular in general.
But if your usual period schedule suddenly changes, or you haven’t had a period for 90 days or more (and you’re not pregnant), that’s cause to see your doctor. It’s also important to note whether you experience bleeding between periods (known as “spotting”).
Duration of Period
A normal period can last anywhere from one to seven days. Again, this is more about what’s normal for you than what’s normal in general. Usually if you experience a period that’s a bit shorter than what’s normal for you, it’s not a big deal–but if you experience a period that lasts more than seven days, talk to your doctor.
Flow During Your Period
You might have a very light or very heavy flow–usually noticeable by how often you have to change your pad or tampon. You might also experience a different flow at different times in your period, such as a couple of very heavy days followed by a couple of very light days.
But if your cycle has you changing out your pad or tampon more than once every hour or two, or if your flow suddenly changes significantly from what’s normal for you, call your doctor.
Periods are disruptive for many people as you experience hormonal changes and/or bloating. But periods should not accompany huge changes in your ability to manage your work or life, huge mood swings including thoughts of hurting yourself, severe pain, or feeling sick or feverish.
Any one of those situations may mean you have an overlapping condition that estrogen changes are making a little harder to manage. And if you guessed that means it’s time to call your doctor… you guessed right!
Causes of Irregular Periods
So, we’ve told you to call your doctor if you are having an irregular period. Here are a few things they might tell you in terms of menstrual cycle irregularities (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2021):
- Pregnancy. This one may be obvious, but if you’re not having a period, get a pregnancy test ASAP. (If you’ve recently given birth and are breastfeeding, that can also cause a delay in menstruation.)
- Weight. Being over- or under-weight, experiencing rapid weight loss, and/or experiencing an eating disorder can all lead to loss of your period.
- Reproductive conditions. There are a few disorders in your reproductive system that can cause irregular periods. One of the most common is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS); it impacts up to 5 million Americans, or 6-12% of all people with ovaries (CDC, 2020). Irregular periods are one of the first signs of PCOS, which can also include facial hair, acne, and weight gain. However, you may also be experiencing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine fibroids, or premature ovarian failure. Read our guide on how to get regular periods naturally with PCOS.
4 Home Remedies for Irregular Periods
Your doctor will be able to provide some treatments specific to the disorder behind your irregular periods; for example, if you are experiencing an eating disorder, it is very important that you get treatment specific to that condition instead of trying home remedies (or at least in addition to other treatments).
However, if you are already getting treatment and would like to give your body a little extra help in getting regular again, here are some home remedies to try:
1. Get Moving
Even though movement may be the last thing you want to do when you’re having period pain, studies show that regular exercise before and during your period can help improve several different menstrual irregularities.
One study of 150 high school girls in Iran found that over four menstrual cycles, the pain, duration, and amount of menstruation decreased after doing about 20 minutes of physical therapy exercises twice a day (Abbaspour, Rostami, & Najjar, 2006). Similarly, a 2012 study found that practicing yoga nidra every day helped a group of women with irregular, painful, and/or heavy periods (Monika et al).
2. Get Spicy
Various spices have been studied for centuries for their ability to reduce pain and/or fatigue. In one preliminary study of the effect of spices on menstrual symptoms (Omidvar et al, 2019):
- 3g a day of dill seed capsules reduced pain by more than half!
- 1g a day of gingercapsules reduced pain by nearly half, and reduced fatigue.
- 3g a day of cuminmixed in water did not reduce menstrual pain, but did reduce other symptoms including back aches and fatigue.
Another study found that 420 mg capsules of cinnamoncould reduce both the pain severity and the amount of menstrual bleeding (Jaafarpour et al, 2015). In addition, a placebo-controlled study found that 30mg capsules of fennelreduced severity of menstrual pain (but not duration or amount) in over 72% of women with dysmenorrhoea (Omidvar et al, 2012).
That’s a lot of spices–and at least a few of them blended together might make some very interesting pickles or tea!
Many of the above home remedies focus on correcting too much flow. However, if you feel you need an increase in the amount of your flow–such as if you are suddenly having a much lighter period than normal–a compound found in pineapples might help: bromelain.
Bromelain has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in many conditions, but it has also been shown to increase menstrual flow, so you may want to avoid it if you are concerned about a heavy flow (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai).
The National Health Service in the UK recommends limiting fruit juice to 100% fruit juice, and no more than 150mL (about 5 oz), in order to prevent tooth decay (NHS, 2018).
We have covered many conditions here–too much flow, too little, too painful, or too heavy. What about too infrequent–a common challenge with conditions like PCOS?
Try Out Our Myo-Inositol & D-Chiro Inositol Blend
A research review of ten other randomized trials found that inositol significantly increased the frequency and flow in the 362 women with PCOS they tested. The review also found some promising results for helping PCOS patients with their metabolism and/or fertility, but further tests are needed (Pundir et al, 2018).
Managing your irregular period begins with tracking what normal means for you. There are dozens of health or fertility apps that can help you track your cycle so you know what to expect. If you try any of the above home remedies for your irregular period–movement, spices, pineapple, or inositol–try them one at a time for a few months to see how they impact your cycle.
It may be a long process, but it’ll be worth it to regain a little more control over your menstruation–and probably a little more control over your life in the process!
- Mayo Clinic Staff (2021). Menstrual cycle: What's normal, what's not. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2020). PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html
- Abbaspour, Z., Rostami, M., & Najjar, S. H. (2006). The effect of exercise on primary dysmenorrhea. Journal of Research in Health sciences, 6(1), 26-31. http://jrhs.umsha.ac.ir/index.php/JRHS/article/view/305
- Monika, S. U., Ghildiyal, A. R. C. H. A. N. A., Kala, S. A. R. S. W. A. T. I., & Srivastava, N. (2012). Effect of Yoga Nidra on physiological variables in patients of menstrual disturbances of reproductive age group. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 56(2), 161-167. https://europepmc.org/article/med/23387245
- Omidvar, S., Nasiri-Amiri, F., Bakhtiari, A., & Begum, K. (2019) Clinical trial for the management dysmenorrhea using selected spices. Studies, 3, 4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333067668_Clinical_trial_for_the_management_dysmenorrhea_using_selected_spices
- Jaafarpour, M., Hatefi, M., Najafi, F., Khajavikhan, J., & Khani, A. (2015). The effect of cinnamon on menstrual bleeding and systemic symptoms with primary dysmenorrhea. Iranian Red Crescent medical journal, 17(4), e27032. https://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.27032
- Omidvar, S., Esmailzadeh, S., Baradaran, M., & Basirat, Z. (2012). Effect of fennel on pain intensity in dysmenorrhoea: A placebo-controlled trial. Ayu, 33(2), 311–313. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.105259
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, n.d. Bromelain. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/bromelain
- National Health Service [NHS] (2018). 5 A Day: what counts? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/5-a-day/5-a-day-what-counts/
- Pundir, J., Psaroudakis, D., Savnur, P., Bhide, P., Sabatini, L., Teede, H., ... & Thangaratinam, S. (2018). Inositol treatment of anovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a meta‐analysis of randomised trials. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 125(3), 299-308. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14754