One of the earliest signs that a woman is entering perimenopause is irregularity in what was previously a fairly regular menstrual cycle. As one approaches menopause, spotting between periods and skipping periods completely signal weakening hormone signals and herald significant changes to come.
Definition of Menopause Irregular Periods
There is no simple definition of irregular periods due to the wide variation in what is considered a woman’s regular menstrual cycle. Changes in your usual cycle, whether it is brown spotting between periods, missed periods, more frequent periods, or flow that is heavier or lighter than usual can all be considered signs of menopause irregular periods, as long as they persist for several months
Symptoms of Irregular Periods
The most common indicator of irregular periods is a shorter than normal interval between periods, often as little as two weeks. In other cases, symptoms of menopause irregular periods may consist of more widely spaced periods, including menstruation that comes every six weeks – or even less frequently. Some women will even miss a period - or several in a row - before resuming their regular menstrual cycle.
Menstrual flow is also an indicator of irregular periods. Menstrual bleeding may last for as long as a week, or as little as 1-2 days. In some cases, the menstrual flow itself will vary - some women will experience lighter periods than what is normal for them, and some will experience heavier periods. Physical symptoms may also accompany irregular periods during perimenopause. These usually include unusually painful cramping, and blood clots.
- More frequent periods
- Longer periods
- Shorter periods
- Changes in menstrual flow
- Skipped periods
- Heavy cramping
- Noticeable blood clots
- Breast tenderness
- Menstrual flow that stops and starts
- Months without periods
- Brown spotting
- Bleeding in between periods
Causes of Menopause Irregular Periods
Like most symptoms of menopause, the primary cause of irregular periods is hormonal imbalance. Estrogen is the hormone that causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for ovulation. Progesterone is the hormone that signals the uterus to shed that lining if there is no fertilized egg to make use of it.
During perimenopause, a woman may have a cycle in which no egg is produced. In that case, progesterone is not produced either, which leads to higher levels of estrogen. This build-up can result in heavier periods, since the uterine lining may have built up over several months. Further hormonal imbalances can lead to an irregular period duration, irregular heaviness in flow, and inconsistenct in duration
Risks of Irregular Periods
One of the most noteworthy risks of irregular periods is the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. Many women incorrectly assume that their era of fertility has passed when they miss periods for several months in a row. However, until there have been no periods for at least a year, women should assume that they are still fertile and take appropriate measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy.