PAID CONTENT
the art and science of taking care
Health | Beauty | Fitness | Nutrition
Health

Science-Backed Tips to Regulate Your Period

+

Your doctor can help you pick the right solution.

Woman in pain

Most women’s menstrual cycles usually range between 24 and 38 days. If your cycle is shorter or longer than that average, or if it varies month to month, then your period is considered irregular.

If you have an irregular period, it can be frustrating get a handle on your menstrual cycle — especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. If you feel your cycle is off, you should see your doctor, who can determine the underlying cause so you can address it properly, says Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN in Orlando, Florida.

Why Your Period Might Be Irregular

Your menstrual cycle can be influenced even the smallest of lifestyle changes, such as increased stress or a fluctuation in weight; these changes can affect your estrogen and progesterone levels, two hormones responsible for regulating your period. “Any sort of significant physical undertaking the body goes through — whether it’s an illness, whether it’s weight loss or weight gain — it affects the delicate balance of estrogen and progesterone,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and author of She-ology, the She-quel. “Your body is smart enough to recognize that something is off.”

An irregular period could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder that creates problems in your ovaries, which can lead to eggs not developing properly or not being released when they should. Between 5 and 10 percent of women of reproductive age have PCOS.

How to Help Regulate Your Period

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to an irregular period, but there are some lifestyle changes you can try to help bring it back on track.

1. Maintain a healthy weight. One cross-sectional study found a correlation between weight fluctuation and irregular periods, suggesting that a healthy, balanced weight could help your cycle stay regular. (That means being not being overweight or underweight.) “If your body fat is not at least 17 percent, then you may not ovulate regularly,” Dr. Greves says. In that case, it’s probably more important that you increase your caloric intake. However, if your doctor diagnoses you with PCOS, it may be helpful if you exercise and lose some of your body fat, Dr. Greves adds. That’s because PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance (insulin is the hormone that controls how your body turns food to energy), and weight loss can improve the way your body uses that insulin.  

2. Consider supplements. In a small study of 78 overweight or obese women with PCOS, researchers found that taking 3 grams of omega-3 supplements for eight weeks decreased their levels of testosterone and helped regulate their periods. While the study only looked into this specific group of individuals, Dr. Ross says that taking two servings of omega-3 a week is good for your overall health — so it doesn’t hurt to try it! Another study found that women with vitamin D deficiencies are more likely to have irregular periods than those with higher levels, so consider getting your levels tested. Your doctor can help you determine what supplements are right for your situation.

3. Talk to your doctor about birth control pills. “The pill is often the answer to regulating your hormones,” Dr. Ross says. In fact, some people take the birth control pill solely to help regulate their periods. Most birth control pills contain 21 active hormone pills and seven inactive placebo pills. When you take the placebo pills, the stop of hormones causes bleeding that mimics a period. The pill may also make your periods lighter and lessen your PMS symptoms, which could make for more pleasant period overall.

4. Let go of stress. Finally, try to relax: Research shows that stress can affect your menstrual cycle, so the better you are at managing your worries, the more likely your period is to stay on track. Some tips for minimizing stress include exercising daily, getting a good night’s rest, and adopting mindfulness habits, such as meditating. If you having trouble coping with your daily stressors, you can always reach out to a trusted loved one or mental health care professional for additional help.