by Jennifer ‘Jay’ Palumbo
Obscure tidbit: If you were to Google “33 Day Cycle,” you’d find more articles, resources, and blogs on this topic than you’d imagine. Clearly, not every woman has a cycle that’s exactly 28 days (although I did love the Sandra Bullock movie with that as a title.)
For some women, irregular periods are an early sign of infertility
However, it’s important to note how long a cycle can vary from one woman to the next. For example, it’s perfectly normal to have a 33-day cycle. Therefore, understanding what’s irregular and what isn’t can help you better understand your reproductive health. Here, we discuss what constitutes an irregular cycle and how this is linked to fertility.
Debunking the 28-Day Myth
Again, you’ve likely heard that 28 days is the average menstrual cycle length. If your cycle deviates from this timeframe, you may worry that your periods are irregular. However, this isn’t the case – although 28 days is average (and again, a good movie!), it doesn’t mean it’s somehow ideal.
Many women’s cycles will be longer or shorter than this, and they’ll still be perfectly fertile. So, if you have a 33-day cycle, it isn’t necessarily an indicator of a fertility issue. Besides, many factors might cause infertility issues, and a woman with a textbook 28-day cycle may still experience difficultyvconceiving.
How Do I Know if I‘m Having an Irregular Period?
While I’m not too fond of math, let’s talk about ways to calculate the length of your cycle. Are you ready? First, count from the first day of menstruation until the first day of your next period. JAZZ HANDS! Simple, right?
Now, if you have a very light, spotty flow (Even Aunt Flo doesn’t always make a dramatic entrance!), it may be tough to figure out when exactly your first day is. So, it’s best to calculate when your period arrives for sure. Remember, a longer or shorter span of menstrual bleeding isn’t relevant to the calculation as it is based on when your period begins instead of when it ends. Did you get all of that?
Your period may be irregular if you observe the following:
It is more frequent than 21 days.
There are more than 35 days between periods.
Or if you experience a lot of variation between cycles.
Again though, it is normal for your cycle to vary slightly month-to-month. For example, it’s okay to have a 33-day cycle one month and 35 the next. In contrast, a significant variation, like 25 to 33 days, is irregular, despite these two timeframes being within the typical spectrum.
If your periods are frequently irregular, it could signify an underlying issue. For instance, your period might be irregular if you’ve been ill, under stress, or sleeping poorly. Equally, gaining or losing a large amount of weight can affect your menstrual cycle.
Other Abnormalities With Your Menstrual Cycle
Even though the term “irregular periods” refers to the length of your cycle, there are other aspects of your cycle you should monitor. For example, you can have an average cycle length and still experience abnormal spotting, discoloration, extremely heavy flow, abnormally long periods, severe cramps, or extreme mood swings
There are also other conditions around your period, such as abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), which may include heavy menstrual bleeding, no menstrual bleeding (amenorrhea) or bleeding between periods (irregular menstrual bleeding),dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods), premenstrual syndrome (PMS) premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Does anyone need a drink and a painkiller after that last paragraph? I know I do!
The bottom line is this: If you’re concerned about any aspect of your period, your best bet is to consult with an OB/GYN or Reproductive Endocrinologist. It’s okay to ask questions and, more importantly, get answers. However, if you feel your doctor isn’t taking your concerns seriously, get a second opinion.
When it comes to your reproductive health and trying to conceive efforts, you are your best advocate! Period, end of story!
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