Many prescription medications (eg, antidepressants) and health issues (eg, thyroid problems) can cause irregular menstrual cycles.
This overview of a few health problems and medicines that can affect menstruation are from Dr Rebecca Booth’s The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle…at Any Age.
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“Many women may not realize the degree to which health conditions can affect reproductive health,” writes Dr Rebecca Booth in The Venus Week. “For example, Juvenile (Type 1) diabetic women tend to reach menopause as many as seven years earlier than their nondiabetic sisters.”
That’s how diabetes can cause irregular menstrual cycles (or stop them altogether). In her book, Dr Booth describes most aspects of the menstrual cycle in clear, easy to understand language.
Skipped or missed periods can make it more difficult to get pregnant – and beyond that, an irregular menstrual cycle is annoying and disruptive to daily life!
Here’s a summary of some health problems and prescription medications that can disrupt your menstrual cycle.
Health Issues and Medications That Cause Irregular Menstrual Cycles
Thyroid problems can cause skipped or missed periods if the thyroid gland is out of balance. “An underactive thyroid has a strong negative effect on ovulation, so thyroid replacement can be a corrector in this scenario,” writes Dr Booth. “An overactive thyroid can also inhibit ovulation, and affect fertility.” She recommends checking prescription medications if you have thyroid disease – especially if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Prolactin increasing medications can increase the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for maintaining breast milk production. Prolactin tends to suppress ovulation which is why nursing mothers skip their periods. Prescription medications that increase prolactin include anti-anxiety medications in the diazepam family, tricyclic antidepressants, some blood pressure medications, and narcotics. Dr Booth recommends checking prolactin levels with blood work.
To make your menstrual cycle regular, you need to see a doctor in person.
Cancer suppressing drugs such as tamoxifen, Evista, and Femara can suppress ovulation and cause irregular menstrual cycles. “Of course, this suppression may be vital and life-saving to women fighting certain cancers,” says Dr Booth. “Always work with your doctor to fully understand your goals with these medications.
Chemotherapy or radiation can shorten the life of the ovary. Evidently, most cancer specialists try to shield radiation from the ovaries; chemotherapy can increase the risk of early onset menopause and shorten the ovarian lifespan. If you want to get pregnant and you’re a cancer survivor, you might find How Ovarian Transplants Work for Infertile Women helpful.
Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or other uterine surgery can leave the ovaries intact. If the ovaries remain intact, then normal hormones and blood flow will eventually return (it takes time for circulation and regular menstrual cycles to be restored). According to Dr Booth, hysterectomies and other uterine surgeries don’t appear to affect early menopause significantly, though the effects may vary from woman to woman.
Premature ovarian failure affects as many as 1% of women – it’s the onset of menopause or the loss of ovulation before age 40. The cause is unknown, but it can affect ovulation and the menstrual cycle. A diagnosis of premature ovarian failure is very difficult, because symptoms start before menstruation actually stops, and blood work may not show evidence of ovarian failure until the ovary has almost completely stopped functioning. Women with premature ovarian failure who want to get pregnant may have to go with fertility treatments or assisted reproductive techniques.
“Although women are strong, resilient, and can bounce back from many health setbacks, in some ways, it doesn’t take much to interrupt your Venus,” writes Dr Booth in The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle…at Any Age. “The best way to avoid any threat – temporary or otherwise – to the wonderful gift of your Venus Week is to take care of yourself, and that starts with being proactive about your health.”
Irregular periods aren't just frustrating; they're warning signs! Getting regular periods will improve your overall health, increase your energy, and help you avoid future health problems.
For help with irregular menstrual cycles, read 8 Natural Ways to Regulate Your Period.