If your menstrual cycle has started to deviate from what you consider normal, you may be wondering what could be causing this sudden change. In particular, if your once-normal period begins to occur less frequently than before or your bleeding is significantly lighter than it was in the past, you may be diagnosed with oligomenorrhea.
What Is Oligomenorrhea?
Oligomenorrhea is a change in a woman’s menstrual cycle that causes it to regularly last longer than 35 days or occur fewer than nine times a year. If your menstrual cycle is occasionally irregular or you have missed a period and are not pregnant, it does not necessarily mean that something is wrong.
Throughout your lifetime, your menstrual cycle may vary. In addition, the hormones controlling your menstrual cycle may be influenced temporarily by certain factors that resolve on their own. When your period changes and does not revert to your previous “normal” after a few months, it is a good idea to see a medical professional.
What Causes Oligomenorrhea?
There are many reasons that a woman experiences infrequent or abnormally light bleeding. Some of these causes are harmless while others may signify a more serious health condition. This is why it is essential to see a doctor and discuss changes to your cycle.
One common cause of oligomenorrhea is a major life change. Getting pregnant, having a baby, and breastfeeding can all impact your period in some way. However, there are less significant life changes that may also affect your period, such as undergoing intense stress at work, losing lots of weight, or going on vacation.
In some cases, a medication could be behind your oligomenorrhea. Hormonal birth control pills can transform your menstrual cycle dramatically, as can birth control methods such as patches, rings, IUDs, and shots. For some women, these interventions could cause periods to become more frequent and heavier, but others may find that it leads to the lighter and more infrequent periods that signify oligomenorrhea.
In fact, some women may even choose to take hormonal birth control continuously to make their periods lighter or suppress them entirely. Some other types of medications that could have an effect on your menstrual cycle include anticoagulants, such as aspirin, antipsychotic and antianxiety medications, and certain epilepsy treatments.
When a young woman first starts getting her period, it may take several years before she starts following a regular pattern. In the beginning, it is not unusual for girls to experience erratic bleeding and periods that may be lighter or heavier than those of the previous month’s period. As hormones stabilize, a young woman should start to notice some consistency in her cycle length and flow.
Similarly, when a woman is entering menopause, the hormonal changes that facilitate this transition can cause periods to come later or sooner than expected in addition to variances in heaviness and duration until periods cease to occur altogether.
Physical Activity Levels And Weight
A woman who is extremely physically active might experience lighter periods. Elite athletes and those who exercise heavily can develop oligomenorrhea, and it is not unusual for some women’s periods to stop entirely as a result. This issue may resolve when activity levels are reduced.
Weight can also play a role with women who are severely underweight, malnourished, or suffering from eating disorders, such as women with anorexia nervosa or bulimia often experiencing oligomenorrhea.
However, it is not just being underweight that can cause oligomenorrhea. Some overweight or obese women may find that the increased estrogen levels caused by having a greater amount of body fat can impact their menstrual cycle. Maintaining a healthy weight is usually enough to resolve any weight-related causes of menstrual irregularities.
There are several underlying health conditions that may cause oligomenorrhea. Some of these include thyroid disorders, elevated levels of prolactin in the blood, pelvic inflammatory disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, primary ovarian insufficiency, obstruction of the uterus, Graves’ disease, uncontrolled diabetes, Prader-Willi syndrome, and anabolic steroid use.
Diagnosis Of Oligomenorrhea
When you see a doctor about irregularities in your menstrual cycle, they may ask you about your health as well as that of other women in your family. Some topics of discussion may include your symptoms, sexual history, past pregnancies and births, other health conditions and operations you have had, and the medications and supplements you currently take. It is useful to bring a log of your period so your physician can identify trends and changes. Your doctor may also conduct a physical exam and other types of tests to determine the potential cause of your oligomenorrhea.
Talk To The Friendly Team at Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness
At Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness, our team of highly trained doctors, nurses, and administrative staff are devoted to helping women manage and treat health issues ranging from menstrual disorders and urinary problems to sexual health concerns and fertility issues. Get in touch today to find out more about our gynecological care and treatment offerings.