There are several ways that women can present with menstrual irregularities. It can be that their cycle itself is not regulated. It can come too often, not often enough, and menstrual flow volume may be too high or too low.
Additionally, many different problematic symptoms can occur before, during or after her periods.
Periods typically occur about once a month or just under a month. There are several abnormal variations from this pattern that may present.
Menstrual cycles may be much longer or shorter from one period to the next. As well, periods may occur sporadically and unpredictably. Menstruation can deviate from a woman’s typical pattern and come late or earlier than expected or a cycle may be skipped altogether. These irregular patterns often occur due to stress.
Menstrual flow irregularities
Amenorrhea occurs when a woman does not menstruate for a prolonged period of time. This can be the result of hormone imbalances, medication, chronic stress, being underweight, over-exercising or from malnutrition.
Oligomenorhea occurs when menstrual flow is very light on an ongoing basis.
Menorrhagia occurs when the menstrual flow is unusually heavy or prolonged such that blood loss is substantial enough for you to become anemic.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Many symptoms can present during the time leading up to a woman’s period. These symptoms can vary in number, intensity and duration.
Symptoms that commonly occur include the following:
Bowel pattern changes
Dysmenorrhea describes the menstrual cramping commonly associated with periods. This may range from mild and manageable symptoms to those which are severe and debilitating and that require anti-inflammatory and pain medication to be controlled.
How are menstrual irregularities controlled conventionally?
Generally speaking, oral contraceptives are the main medication recommended to alter hormones in the body in order to improve menstrual irregularities.
These may be effective for regulating your menstrual cycle timing and may address some symptoms associated with your period.
For some women, oral contraceptives may create new intolerable symptoms or not provide adequate relief. Other women prefer to choose natural treatments.
Other medication may be prescribed to control specific symptoms related to periods.
How does a naturopathic doctor treat menstrual irregularities?
A naturopathic doctor assesses your overall health, diet and lifestyle, menstrual cycle pattern and any associated symptoms.
Initially, dietary and lifestyle modifications will be implemented with the patient which may lead to improvements in regulating your menstrual cycle or symptoms associated with your period.
At some point, a saliva hormone test may be recommended to better understand which hormones are sub-optimal, and to what degree. Saliva hormone testing provides an assessment of bio-available hormones – that is, the hormones levels in your tissues. This is different than blood hormone levels because they measure total circulating hormone levels.
Based on the understanding of which hormone levels need normalizing, your naturopathic doctor may recommend nutrients, herbs or acupuncture to help your body re-balance hormone levels naturally.
Alternatively, in some cases, bio-identical hormone treatment may be prescribed to more directly target hormones that are very depleted. If bio-identical hormones are recommended, this will be done in an amount catered to your individual requirements. It is also recommended to re-test saliva hormone levels a few months after initiating bio-identical hormone therapy to ensure levels are at their appropriate optimal levels.