• Menstrual cycle
  • Menstrual cycle

Menstrual cycle: understanding, taking action & living a healthy lifestyle

Written by: Editors

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Your menstrual cycle is regulated by a complex interaction of hormones in your body and plays a crucial role in your reproductive and overall health. Many women have regular periods, others have irregular periods. When your cycle comes and goes at unexpected times, this can be confusing and sometimes cause for concern. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the basics of your menstrual cycle, potential causes of irregular periods, and discuss when it's time to seek medical attention.

The menstrual cycle

Each month, before you have your period, hormones cause eggs (follicles) in one of your ovaries to mature. At the same time, the lining of your uterus starts to build up in preparation for a possible pregnancy. If the egg does not become fertilised, the egg and the lining of the uterus is shed during menstruation.

Causes of irregular periods

Irregular periods can be caused by a number of factors, such as:

  • Hormonal imbalances: An imbalance in one or several of hormones can disrupt normal menstrual cycle patterns. 
  • Medication: The use of certain medications, such as birth control pills, hormonal IUDs and anti-inflammatory medications, can affect the menstrual cycle. 
  • Anatomical abnormalities: Uterine polyps or cervical abnormalities can cause also abnormal menstrual bleeding. 
  • Health issues: Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid gland disorders can cause irregular periods. 
  • Lifestyle factors: Stress, an unhealthy diet and excessive exercise can also affect the menstrual cycle. 


Fibroids and endometriosis can cause a person to experience painful periods and severe cramping. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition associated with irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, acne and reduced fertility.

Nutritional and lifestyle advice

A healthy lifestyle and diet can help regulate periods and reduce premenstrual symptoms (PMS) and menstrual pain. Eating a balanced diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins, helps balance your hormones. Regular exercise, good quality sleep and stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can also help reduce menstrual symptoms.

Alternative treatments

Besides conventional medical treatments, you may want to explore alternative therapies that offer additional avenues for alleviating menstrual symptoms, such as herbal remedies, dietary supplements and therapies such as acupuncture. Herbs such as ginger, chamomile and fennel are often used to relieve menstrual pain and regulate blood flow. Certain supplements, such as magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, are also known to reduce the severity of menstrual symptoms.

Menstrual symptoms and medical assistance

Menstrual symptoms can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe which can interfere with daily activities, such as pain, cramps, heavy bleeding, dizziness and fatigue. Hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can also wreak havoc on your emotions, leaving you feeling irritable, anxious or depressed. 

If your periods are very irregular, heavy or long, and you also experience symptoms such as abdominal pain or bleeding after sex, or if you are concerned about your overall health, it's important to see your GP. Your GP will ask questions about your menstrual pattern, symptoms, medical history and, if necessary, perform additional tests, such as: 

  • a vaginal examination 
  • a pap smear 
  • an STI test 
  • an ultrasound scan 

These tests can be done to investigate the possible causes of your irregular periods. It can also be useful to keep track of your menstrual pattern. If you notice any changes or symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your GP during your appointment.

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