Oligomenorrhea is the medical term that refers to light or infrequent menstrual periods or flow. These periods can occur in women about six to eight times a year.
There is some variation to be expected in the length of the menstrual cycle. However, more than 35 days (from beginning of menstruation to the start of the next menstruation) may mean a diagnosis of Oligomenorrhoea.
Most young women have a normal menstrual cycle when they reach the age of 16, although it can be very irregular before that point in time.
It’s estimated that about 5% of people will suffer from a menstrual cycle that is longer than 35 days once in a year.
- 35-day gap or longer between menstrual cycles.
- Heavy bleeding
- Less than 9 menstrual cycles a year.
- Pain experienced prior or during menstrual cycles.
- Easily fractured or broken bones.
- Unpredicted period that leads to infertility (trouble getting pregnant).
The following symptoms are for those who experience oligomenorrhea related to the female athlete:
- Extensive, restrictive diet
- Frequent fractures in the bones of lower legs, hips or spine.
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Abnormal eating disorder
- Low blood pressure
Treatment for Irregular Periods
Causes of Oligomenorrhoea
There are various reasons why someone might experience light, or infrequent periods. Here are just a few of them.
Progesterone and estrogen are essential hormones that that control the female reproductive system. If there is a hormonal imbalance,then these two hormones do not have the right quantities in the body. If estrogen levels are low, then this can lead to an increased risk for heart-related disease and osteoporosis.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This is one of the more common causes of oligomenorrhea. During this condition, the body makes more androgens than it usually does that can cause the ovaries to be saturated with cysts and also cause menstrual irregularities such as amenorrhea and excessive bleeding.
When using oral contraceptives, it will be difficult for the body to control normal menstrual cycle if there is any abnormal hormone level in the body.
Lack of Synchronization
A lack of synchronization between the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and ovaries can lead to irregular periods. This condition can interfere with the process of ovulation.
Chronic diseases that can affect menstrual cycles include osteoporosis, diabetes and estrogen-secreting tumors.
Due to fluctuating hormones, just about anything can happen to periods in perimenopause. This can include a longer length of time between periods, or missed periods.
Sports or Heavy Exercise
Women who train heavily may have very light and/or infrequent periods. Basically, your body may enter starvation mode after weeks or even month of this. Your body will start to use most of its energy for critical functions, not maintaining a regular menstrual cycle.
For example, one study found that 11% of female marathoners had a missed period, or cycle that was too long.
In particular, athletes who train heavily, but have pressure to keep their weight down may experience this in high frequencies. For example, gymnasts, ice skaters or dancers.
Eating Disorders and/or Significant Weight Changes
Another cause of Oligomenorrhoea is eating disorders. This can lead to hormonal imbalances, including those that regulate the reproductive system.
Extreme dieting or something like gastric bypass surgery can have an impact on periods. A very low body fat percentage can disrupt the production of hormones.
The same goes for an excess of body fat, which stores estrogen and can impact your period.
Lack of adequate nutrients can have a negative impact on the menstrual cycle, including periods that are too far apart.
Don’t skip meals, and be sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
High states of stress, over a long period of time leads to a number of negative health effects. One of them is irregular periods.
Other Causes of Infrequent Periods
Irregular menstrual periods can be caused by uterine disorders such as adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, endometrial hyperplasia and uterine polyps.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and types of bowel disorders can cause irregular menstrual cycles as well as weight loss, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Diabetes can also be a factor that leads to oligomenorrhea.
Graves’ disease, thyrotoxicosis or Prader-Willi syndrome can also cause irregular periods.
Diagnoses for Oligomenorrhea
To get the best result in terms of treatment, you should visit your doctor.
The doctor must be informed about the symptoms of menstrual irregularities. They will perform a complete physical examination and look into the patient’s medical history. Your doctor will also perform a screen test for any eating disorders (education may be necessary).
In fact, a number of tests are done to establish the hormone levels and exclude other conditions. These tests include pelvic examination, a Pap test, specific blood tests and pregnancy test.
Family history is important to help diagnose this condition.
Women should discuss their period history with their doctors. The patient should mention the time when they got their first period, how many times have their periods been occurring and other health problems that had occurred during infancy and childhood.
Any information regarding periods must be shared with their doctors. It can be very useful to track your period.
The patient should also inform their doctors if they experience symptoms such as adult acne, discharge from the breasts, impaired vision, headaches, as well as facial or chest hair.
Testing: Doctors may ask the patient to undergo blood tests. This will measure hormone levels in the body. An MRI test might be performed to check for any pituitary gland or hypothalamic abnormalities in the brain.
Doctors may also request to conduct a pelvic ultrasound to check for abnormalities for vagina, cervix and uterus.
Examination: Doctors will perform a physical examination of the abdomen, face, breasts and neck.
Treatment of Oligomenorrhea
Oral medications: This procedure can help balance hormone levels in the body so that menstrual cycles can return to normal. This procedure can last for a couple of months to obtain the desired results. Some doctors can prescribe birth control pills to their patients to control hormone levels.
Surgery or Therapy
Therapies or surgeries are rarely done to treat malfunctioned glands, which are one of the causes to hormonal imbalance. Other treatments such as acupuncture, natural hormone replacement, nutrition counseling and dietary changes may be recommended.
Reducing Environmental Stress
Environmental factors may also lead to menstrual irregularities. Women must therefore maintain a proper body weight, consume a healthy diet and abstain from stress. Athletic women with oligomenorrhea are required to consume a nutritious diet.
Education about nutrition and proper caloric intake may be required in this case.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Hormonal drugs or injections are used to treat PCOS. Not only will this regulate the menstrual cycle, but it can also cause an ovulation.
Bromocriptine or surgical tumor removal can also treat oligomenorrhea caused by hyperprolactinemia and tumors.
This can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles. Psychotherapy and medical treatment are usually the solutions to take care of this. Even something as simple as skipping a meal or two every day can lead to irregular periods if you’re already underweight.
Overweight women can reduce their weight according to their body mass index (BMI).
Alternative treatments are based on the cause of the condition. If hormonal imbalance is confirmed from laboratory tests, then natural hormone replacements are recommended.
Glandular therapy is recommended to balance the glands, which play an essential part in the reproductive cycle. These glands include the ovaries, the hypothalamus, renal glands, the pituitary gland and the thyroid.
There are also some Chinese and Western alternative medicine that can be effective to treat oligomenorrhea, along with some recommended home remedies.
Treatment Options for Irregular Periods
A proper diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, essential fatty acids, adequate protein and whole grains should be recommended. A healthy balanced diet is important for women, especially athletes who engage in strenuous exercises as well as those with nutritional deficiencies. These women should consult their nutritionist to make sure that they are following an appropriate diet.
Young women who are involved in weightlifting, softball and basketball have a smaller chance of developing eating disorders than those who partake in dance or any other sports.
Prognosis for Oligomenorrhoea
Fortunately, many women, can be successfully treated with hormones for oligomenorrhea, which can get them to menstruate frequently and start ovulating during their cycle.
But there are several problems for those women who don’t respond to hormones or continue to have an underlying condition that results in oligomenorrhea. If one gets oligomenorrhea during their teen years, it will be very difficult for them to become pregnant and may get fertility drugs.
Absence of adequate estrogen results in a bigger risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and repeated bone fractures later in their life.
Prevention of Oligomenorrhea
Oligomenorrhea can only be avoided in women with a low body fat to weight ratio that prevents them from having a regular menstrual cycle. Female athletes have to do less vigorous training exercises and follow a healthy balanced diet to prevent oligomenorrhea.
Oligomenorrhea is not preventable when caused by hormonal factors, but they can usually be treated.
Oligomenorrhea and Pregnancy
If you’re trying to get pregnant and you have a very light, or infrequent period, it can be difficult. There are two situations to be aware of, lack of ovulation, and failure of the uterine lining to develop fully.
Lack of Ovulation
In order to conceive, you’ll need to ovulate. A sign of this happening (and then not getting pregnant) is menstruating. When you do become pregnant, the egg you released during ovulation is fertilized.
It follows that if you’re not menstruating, you’re not ovulating and pregnancy will be impossible to achieve.
Lack of Uterine Lining Development
The other thing to consider is if you have very light periods. This means that the lining of your uterus is not fully developing.
You may ovulate as normal, and fertilizing may be achieved. Normally, the fertilized egg implants into the walls of the uterus, but if your lining is very thin, this will be difficult to do.
Even if implantation does occur, there may not be sufficient amounts of lining to maintain a pregnancy.
I Want to Get Pregnant!
As you can see from the above two situations, if you have a very, very light or infrequent period, it may be quite difficult to become pregnant. We recommend NOT leaving things up to chance. Please see your doctor for help, advice and recommendations for your specific situation.
I Don’t Want to Become Pregnant: Do I Need Protection?
That said, if you don’t want to get pregnant, then please use protection. Although it’s more difficult to become pregnant if you have Oligomenorrhea, it’s not impossible.
Light Periods and Pregnancy
All about Menstrual Disorders
Do you want to know more about the various kinds of menstrual disorders? Then you’ll want to check out our detailed overview here:
Oligomenorrhea: Have your Say!
Any questions or comments about an irregular period or Oligomenorrhoea? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.