The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, although it's very common for it to be a bit shorter or longer. Usually, after puberty, many women develop a regular cycle with a similar length of time between periods[i][ii].
Cycle lengths that vary by up to seven days are considered regular¹. For example, if a person’s shortest menstrual cycle was 27 days long and the longest was 30 days. That’s a difference of three days between them. Since this number is less than seven, these cycles would be considered regular. Alternatively, if the shortest menstrual cycle was 23 days long, and the longest one was 34 days long, the difference between them is 11 days. That’s more than seven days, so these cycles would be considered irregular.
Please also come and see us for complementary therapies which can help to balance the menstrual cycle and boost fertility. Read our entry on fertility here.
A note on spotting: please see a GP if you are experiencing bleeding between periods which is not caused by contraceptive methods. Spotting and any menstrual bleeding occurring after menopause should also be addressed by your doctor immediately. Please see our article on spotting here.
Endometriosis: a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb may grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Please see our entry on Endometriosis here.
Hormonal fluctuations associated with puberty. Periods are often irregular for the first year or two after the menstrual cycle onset.
Miscarriages and abortions/ copper IUD (intrauterine device)
Hormonal contraception (including any form of contraception which contains hormones such as the pill, hormonal coil aka. intrauterine devices/ IUDs, the implant and emergency contraception medication[vii].
Extreme weight loss or gain and stress to the body are caused by excessive exercise. Irregular periods or loss of periods are common in athletes, dancers and bodybuilders, for example[viii].
Psychological stress or emotional trauma
Travelling: whereby the sleeping pattern is disrupted
Sleep disturbances (including insomnia or working night shifts) [ix]
Ongoing menstrual cycle irregularities which cannot be explained by the above may be caused by medical conditions including:
Please see a doctor if you have also experienced any of the following:
Spotting: bleeding between periods[xi]
You have been without a period for over 90 days[xii]
Severe pain during your period
Pain or bleeding during sex (which is not associated with menstrual bleeding)
Severe heavy bleeding (may be associated with anaemia)
Feeling faint and fainting (may be associated with anaemia)
Shortness of breath (may be associated with anaemia)
Paleness (may be associated with anaemia)
As described above, there are many possible causes of irregularities in the menstrual cycle, therefore treatment options and recommendations will vary greatly for each individual. If you would like advice tailored for your unique requirements, please contact us today for advice, or consider booking a nutritional therapy consultation with one of our expert therapists to get to the bottom of the root causes behind the issue you are facing.
DUTCH test: this dried urine test looks at your hormone levels and their metabolites. It also includes cortisol and DHEA which helps to evaluate stress levels felt throughout the day and which may be contributing to your symptoms. This test will identify how you metabolise oestrogen, and may therefore point towards the cause of irregular periods in some individuals. For more information on the test click here.
Thyroid function: it is worth checking thyroid function, as this commonly changes around menopause. Thyroid function is also inextricably linked to reproductive health and hormone production and function. Usually testing for markers such as: TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), FT3 & FT, thyroid function tests can be sought privately or through your GP. Talk to us for further advice. Read more on Complete Thyroid Panel.
Metabolomix Plus Advance: this finger prick test provides a fully detailed analysis of individual vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and amino acids status, markers for gastrointestinal function, oxidative stress, essential fats status and the nutrient and toxic elements clearance. It helps to identify your nutritional needs, which if supported appropriately, could help with supporting a healthy reproductive system by making sure your body has everything it needs for optimal health. Read here for more information.
NutrEval: This test provides a unique and comprehensive assessment of nutritional status, which is the same as the Metabolomix Plus Advanced with added extras. This test requires a full blood sample done via a partner phlebotomy service together with the urine sample and this provides the analysis of some additional markers such as vitamin D, glutathione and homocysteine. Click here for more information.
Irregular periods have many causes. Making good lifestyle changes to reduce or manage stress and maintain a healthy body weight may help regulate periods, so this is definitely a good place to start.
[i] Fraser I.S., Critchley H.O., Broder M, & Munro M.G. The FIGO recommendations on terminologies and definitions for normal and abnormal uterine bleeding. Semin Reprod Med. September 29, 2011(5):383-90.
[ii] “Irregular periods.” Health a to Z, NHS, April 9, 2021.
[iv] Welt, C.K. Absent or irregular periods (Beyond the Basics). UptoDatePatient education, April 3, 2019.
[v] Sweet, M.G., Schmidt-Dalton, T.A., Weiss, P.M., & Madsen, K.P. (2012). Evaluation and management of abnormal uterine bleeding in premenopausal women. American Family Physician, 85, 35–43.
[vi] Harlow, S.D. & Paramsothy, P. Menstruation and the Menopause Transition. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. September 2011; 38(3): 595–607
[vii] Tirelli A., Cagnacci A., & Volpe A. Levonorgestrel administration in emergency contraception: bleeding pattern and pituitary-ovarian function. Contraception. May 1, 2008;77(5):328-32.
[viii] Daly, AJ. Exercise and Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Comprehensive and Critical Review of the Literature. Sports Med. 2008;38(8):659-70.
[ix] Mahoney M.M. Shift work, jet lag, and female reproduction. International journal of endocrinology. 2010 March 8, 2010.
[x] “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Eshre.Eu, 2021.
[xi] Abnormal Uterine Bleeding. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ for patients. January 2020.
[xii] Master-Hunter, T. & Heiman, D. L. (2006). Amenorrhea: Evaluation and treatment. American Family Physician, 73, 1374–1382.
[xiii] Ajai K Pandey, Anumegha Gupta, Meenakshi Tiwari, et al. ‘Impact of stress on female reproductive health disorders: Possible beneficial effects of shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)’ Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.Volume 103,2018, Pages 46-49.
[xiv] O'Leary MF, Jackman SR, Sabou VR, Campbell MI, Tang JCY, Dutton J, Bowtell JL. Shatavari Supplementation in Postmenopausal Women Improves Handgrip Strength and Increases Vastus lateralis Myosin Regulatory Light Chain Phosphorylation but Does Not Alter Markers of Bone Turnover. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 27;13(12):4282.
[xv] Thakker D, Raval A, Patel I, Walia R. N-acetylcysteine for polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Obstet Gynecol Int. 2015;2015:817849.
[xvi] Tehrani HG, Mostajeran F, Shahsavari S. The effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on menstrual cycle, body mass index and hyperandrogenism state of women with poly cystic ovarian syndrome. J Res Med Sci. 2014 Sep;19(9):875-80.
[xvii] Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017 Oct 22;6(10):92.
[xviii] Gaskins, A.J. et al. (2012) “The impact of dietary folate intake on reproductive function in premenopausal women: A prospective cohort study,” PLoS ONE, 7(9). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journa...;
[xix] MGH Center for Women's Mental Health (2018) Folic acid essential for all women of reproductive age, MGH Center for Women's Mental Health. Available at: https://womensmentalhealth.org... (Accessed: November 4, 2022).
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.