Why Your Period is Late or Irregular - Doctor Explains

Why Your Period is Late or Irregular
Dear doctor, I am now 22 with really irregular periods. I can sometimes go for up to 3 months without any periods at all! What’s the matter with me?

The irregularity of periods can be distressing, especially when you don’t know why this is occurring. It is not uncommon for periods to be irregular around the time of puberty. This is usually related to a maturing reproductive system. Shortly after that, and at your age of 22, periods should have become regular and predictable.

The most likely cause for the irregularity of your periods is what is referred to as hormonal imbalance. The control of monthly periods is a complex system of well-synchronized hormones released from the brain, which in turn signal the ovaries to produce female hormones and release an egg (ovulation). The womb (uterus) responds in a predictable manner in anticipation of a potential pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, uterine shedding occurs as a monthly period, and a new cycle starts.

The commonest cause for the pattern of your periods is a condition called ‘polycystic ovarian syndrome’ or PCOS for short. This is a complex condition, but at its simplest it translates into a failure to ovulate every month, resulting in irregular and missed periods. But there are still other gynecological conditions that may explain what you are going through.

A review by a gynecologist will come up with a diagnosis. It is likely you will need some hormone tests and maybe imaging of your reproductive organs. Once the cause is identified, specific measures can be instituted to regulate your bleeding pattern.

Will I still be able to have my own children? Please help?

Many women worry about their potential for having children when faced with irregular periods. The fact that you are very young means that your potential for pregnancy remains very high, even with irregular periods. I would actually advise the use of contraception if you are sexually active and not yet ready to conceive.

But as irregular periods imply inconsistent ovulation, you should seek help if you don’t get pregnant within 6 months once you start trying. All that you may require is some tablets to help with ovulation. You should desist from self-prescription, as ovulation tablets are not without some risks. Pregnancy usually occurs within 6 months of such medication. In rare cases, some women may require more complex interventions to achieve a pregnancy.

What you are going through should not be viewed as a serious problem, especially in the very young reproductive age groups. It is not unusual for some period irregularities to self-correct in the course of time. But once you get an assessment and an explanation for your period patterns, you will feel more at ease. You may not even require anything to be done depending on your prevailing reproductive wishes.
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