What if we had a full moon night for two weeks?? Or, what if the sun suddenly decided not to show up for a day and you had to endure a night that lasted over 24 hours?! These occurrences are obviously impossible, and when we try to imagine them hypothetically, all our thoughts end in the world dissolving into chaos.
So, what about when periods become non-periodic?
For a process called ‘period’ to become ‘non-periodic’, is ironic and even seems unimaginable but in fact, this phenomenon is quite common and isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.
A prevalent instance of this phenomenon is when a young adolescent encounters menarche. Instead of the regular menstrual cycles, one should be having, it is customary to experience irregularity in the form of ‘anovulatory cycles’.
What are ‘anovulatory’ cycles and why are they caused? Are they only found in teens?
An-ovulation essentially means ‘without ovulation’. Hence anovulatory cycles are period cycles where the body doesn’t ovulate regularly (every month), resulting in irregular menstruation. They are characterised by late or skipped periods, prolonged menstrual flow and mid-cycle spotting. The symptoms may vary from one person to another.
These cycles naturally arise during the first couple of years after menarche due to the sudden change in the level hormones like progesterone and oestrogen. The body requires time to adjust to these new processes, and as it tries to find a new rhythm, it may sometimes forget to ovulate every month.
This phenomenon isn’t restricted to teens and adolescents but is also found in older menstruators. When approaching menopause, periods tend to show up erratically with varied durations for menstrual flow. During perimenopause, the length between two cycles can vary from just two weeks to several months!
It is important to note that anovulatory cycles can also arise at times other than menarche and menopause. The reasons for this may be prolonged stress, insufficient nutrition and sleep, excessive physical exercise, or a disruption in routine. It could be a side effect of taking medical drugs or birth control pills or the result of an underlying medical condition such as PCOS.
Going to the doctor
It is not uncommon to go through several months without a period in your first year, hence, there is no dire need to consult a doctor. If a teen is under immense stress and has not been eating or sleeping well, a doctor’s consult may be helpful. A sudden irregularity in periods could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition which requires professional treatment.
However, an irregularity in periods should not be confused with amenorrhoea (a complete halt in period cycles). Amenorrhoea without a pregnancy or use of pills could be a cause for concern and may require a doctor’s consultation.
What this means for a young menstruator
Menstrual cycles for a school-going adolescent even when regular, add a certain amount of stress on a teen’s shoulders. Requiring to keep track of pad changes, maintaining menstrual hygiene, dealing with hormonal mood swings is not an easy task. However, if you add irregularity, unpredictability and heavy flow to the list, one’s stress could become doubled.
Not knowing when one’s period is going to come, having to endure period days that extend over 8-10 days causes a lot of unnecessary stress throughout the month. Getting one’s period randomly without the required mental and physical preparation can cause a lot of disorganisation in a teen’s life.
How an adolescent can be better prepared
The first and best way to prepare oneself is to be aware. Several young menstruators are unaware of what to expect during menarche and immediately panic when a period doesn’t show up. It is important to educate young adolescents on what to expect after they start menstruating.
Carrying a pad at all times, keeping track of menstrual cycles and noting down the noticeable changes in your body (such as cramps, tightness in the chest region, mood swings, a slight increase/decrease in body temperature, etc.) before you get a period can help prepare you when your cycles are irregular. Hence when these tell-tale signs arise, you know to expect your period within the next few days.
For our young readers, apart from menarche, an irregular period is a sign that you aren’t taking proper care of your body. Leading a healthy and stress-free lifestyle automatically results in regular and stress-free period cycles. Having good menstrual health cannot be compromised and is, in fact, an integral part of overall good health. So next time you find something different about your menstrual cycle, take a step back from your busy schedule and make sure you give your body the attention that it needs!
Written by Sanjana Gandhi
Graphics by Rachel Alexander