Menstrual Cycle Irregularities

As the child develops, puberty will occur and menstruation and secondary sexual development commence. This is usually anywhere from the age of nine to fourteen years. The first outward sign is often breast development, pubic and underarm hair and the appearance of the periods.

It takes the hormones several years, often, to develop to a point where regular ovulation and menstruation occur. In some girls it may be delayed. This often worries them, especially if they compare notes with school friends and they seem “abnormal.” There is nothing worse than being different from all your peers. It is often mentally traumatizing, too.

A medical check may give the mother and daughter some mental relief. In due course, regularity of menstruation nearly always takes place, but occasionally I’ve seen girls not in this regular pattern until they have reached the ripe old age of 20 years. Variations are enormous. In recent years, a few interesting features have become apparent. Very active girls, especially those on limited diets (many girls simply hate eating), or those engaging in sport, ballet and similar active pastimes, tend to have delayed periods. This activity seems capable of affecting their hormonal system somehow and causing a postponement. So bear this in mind, mother, if you happen to be a worrier.

Another interesting thing is the reverse. In Western countries, in the past few decades, girls appear to be “maturing” (periods starting) at a progressively earlier age. It is believed that this is tied up with our way of life, our busy, hectic schedules, the stresses and tensions of the 20th century. But, it is now an established fact of life.

From the age of the menarche, when secondary sexual development takes place in the female, the normal menstrual period commences. The age at which this starts is variable, but it usually occurs anywhere between the ages of 10 and 16 years. In some women it is even later, but this is rare, being about one in every 100 women. Menstruation normally proceeds fairly regularly until the age of 45 – 50 years, when the change of life sets in, and normal menstruation finally ceases.

Some women may continue with regular periods well into their 50s, but this is not usual. There are many factors that play a part in ensuring this regular cycle. Some are physical, but emotional overtones and bleeding external stresses, tensions and related psychological events can all play their part via the higher cerebral centers. For this reason, although periods arc traditionally normal and regular, and the level of loss is about the same, great variations can take place. In fact, some females do not start their periods as anticipated.

Others commence very late. Some bleed very heavily for no outward obvious reason. Others have a scanty flow. Some women have a cycle of 21 days; in others it is prolonged, and successive periods may be separated by as many as 35 – 40 days. Many women tend to develop a menstrual pattern, and this may persist for many years. What seems normal to one person may seem totally abnormal and unacceptable to another. The natural variations are wide. For many years some women will accept their particular pattern as being satisfactory to them.

The chief reason may be that this is how it has always been, and they know no different way of life. But then they may read a magazine article (probably about the possibility of cancer being related to a particular bleeding pattern). This gets hold of their imagination, and they quickly seek medical opinion, probably for the first time in many years, with the fear that they may be so afflicted, or that they may face some real dangers. This is not a bad effect.

Anything that will drive women to the doctor for a cancer check is to be applauded, for the rate of cancer deaths, worldwide, ranks it as number two cause of death. Apathy and lethargy, and perhaps absolute ignorance, are some reasons for this. Fortunately, a great many cancers of the genital tract (and the breast) are accessible, and can be diagnosed fairly early. Abnormal bleeding habits may be an early sign that all is not well. Many different classifications of bleeding abnormalities in women exist.