Menstrual Irregularities: Causes

By Spader, Catherine RN

What causes menstrual irregularities?

Menstrual irregularities can be associated with normal conditions, such as puberty or ovulation. Your menstrual period may last for just a few days or for more than a week. A normal menstrual flow can differ greatly from woman to woman and also varies in different phases of life, such as adolescence and perimenopause. Menstrual irregularities can be caused by a mild or moderate condition, such as stress or uterine fibroids. Menstrual irregularities can also be caused by serious or life-threatening conditions, such as uterine cancer or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Potential causes of menstrual irregularities

Menstrual irregularities can be caused by a variety of underlying factors, such as a pelvic infection, or a disease, disorder or condition of the ovaries or uterus. Causes of menstrual irregularities include:

  • Extremely low levels of body fat, which can be caused by malnourishment, extreme physical training, or eating disorders
  • Ovulation
  • Perimenopause and menopause
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Puberty
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Stress
  • Tumors (inappropriate hormone release or inhibition)
  • Uterine fibroids or uterine polyps

    What are the potential complications of menstrual irregularities?

    In some cases, menstrual irregularities can be due to a condition that can result in serious or life-threatening complications. You can minimize the risk of serious complications of menstrual irregularities by seeking early medical care and following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of menstrual irregularities and underlying causes can include:

    • Adverse effects of treatment
    • Anemia, due to excessive blood loss

    • Chronic pelvic pain

    • Difficulty getting pregnant and infertility

    • Ectopic pregnancy

    • Metastatic cancer that can become terminal

    • Pelvic adhesions and scarring of the fallopian tubes

    • Severe hemorrhage


    1. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
    2. Heavy, prolonged, or irregular periods. UNC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
    3. Vaginal bleeding between periods. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
    4. Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Practice bulletin no. 128: diagnosis of abnormal uterine bleeding in reproductive-aged women. Obstet Gynecol 2012; 120:197.
    5. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

    What are menstrual irregularities?

    Menstrual irregularities are common abnormalities of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Menstrual irregularities include a variety of conditions in which menstruation is irregular, heavy, painful, or does not occur at all.

    Common types of menstrual irregularities include:


    What other symptoms might occur with menstrual irregularities?

    Menstrual irregularities may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, menstrual irregularities due to a pelvic infection may be associated with fever and painful sexual intercourse.

    Symptoms that may occur along with menstrual irregulariti... Read more about menstrual irregularitiessymptoms

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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