Are you experiencing irregular menstruation patterns?

Amenorrhoea refers to the absence of menstruation on a permanent or temporary basis. Oligomenorrhoea refers to infrequent menstrual periods, or having a period only now and then. Both refer to conditions characterised by irregular menstruation patterns.

Types of amenorrhoea

Amenorrhoea is classified into primary amenorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea. Primary amenorrhoea occurs in young females who have not started menstruating by the age of 16, typically as the result of a genetic or anatomical condition. Secondary amenorrhoea is when normal menstruation is interrupted for three or more consecutive periods or a time period of more than six months in a woman who was previously menstruating. Infertility and bone loss (osteoporosis) are complications of prolonged amenorrhoea.

"Irregular periods are common in girls who are just beginning to menstruate. After a year or two, the menstrual cycle usually regularises," said Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyKK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Causes of irregular periods

Irregular periods may be caused by different factors, including the following:

  • Genetic syndromes such as Turner syndrome, androgen insensitivity and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • During puberty or nearing menopause
  • Change in contraception methods
  • Certain medications e.g. anti-depressants
  • Lifestyle changes such as excessive exercise, extreme weight loss or gain, eating disorders and stress
  • Hormonal changes (e.g. hormone imbalance of oestrogen and progesterone, the female hormones regulating the menstrual cycle; hypothyroidism)
  • Diseases and abnormalities in the reproductive system (e.g. pregnancy, hypothalamic or pituitary diseases, endometriosis, cancer)

What you can do to prevent irregular periods

Missing a few periods is usually no cause for alarm. Make a few lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest and exercise, staying relaxed and calm, and losing some weight if you are overweight. Chances are, your menstrual cycle will be back to normal again soon.

To rule out any abnormality, see a doctor if menstruation has not started by the age of 16, or if your periods have been absent for more than six months when you are not pregnant or menopausal. Treatment for irregular periods varies according to the cause.

Ref: O18