Our bodies contain chemicals called hormones. These chemicals are the body’s messenger system for various systems and processes, including the menstrual cycle.
An imbalance can arise if you have too much or too little of one or more hormones. The body requires precise levels of hormones to function properly. Even a minor imbalance can cause significant effects, especially with the menstrual cycle.
Hormones can fluctuate at different times in a person’s life, especially during:
Depending on which hormones are imbalanced, as well as the underlying cause of the hormone imbalance, symptoms can vary. They can include:
- irregular, light, or very heavy periods
- hair loss
- vaginal dryness or pain with intercourse
- weight gain
- hot flashes or night sweats
- growth of facial hair
- skin tags
Conditions and factors that can cause hormone imbalances that can affect the menstrual cycle include:
- thyroid problems
- eating disorders
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- primary ovarian insufficiency
Irregular periods are those that occur less than 24 days apart or more than 38 days apart. Put another way, the length of time from the first day of your last period to the first day of your next one is either less than 24 days or more than 38 days.
If your cycle length changes by more than 20 days each month, that’s also considered irregular. However, irregular periods are “normal” during the first few years of menstruation and during perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause.
While there are lifestyle changes you can make that can help regulate your hormones, it’s best to see a doctor if you’re having symptoms of hormone imbalance or if your periods are irregular.
They will be able to monitor hormone levels and make sure they’re where they need to be. They can also determine whether or not treatments are working.
Depending on the underlying cause of the hormone imbalance or which hormones are irregular, other treatments might also be used.
Hormone therapy is often used to regulate menstrual periods. This can be done with:
- oral contraceptives
- birth control patch
- birth control shot
- vaginal ring
- hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)
Your doctor will need to prescribe these and can work with you to find the treatment that’s most appropriate for your situation.
Anti-androgens are medications that block the effects of male sex hormones like testosterone. If your body makes too much of these hormones, as it does with PCOS, these drugs may be used.
Sometimes a diabetes medication called metformin is also used, since this helps to lower androgen levels and help restart ovulation.
If your hormone imbalance is caused by a thyroid condition like hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone medication can help your body recalibrate its hormone levels and rebalance them.
In some people, especially those who have PCOS, losing weight can help. Fat cells produce estrogen, and it’s been found that a 10 percent decrease in weight for those who are overweight with PCOS can help regulate the menstrual cycle.
It can also affect the way the body uses insulin and help regulate hormone levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular exercise can also improve overall health and aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
If you’re on supplements or medication, tell your doctor. Sometimes medications can interfere with hormones. Even natural supplements can affect hormonal balance.
If you have a hormone imbalance, there are various treatments to help bring your hormones back to appropriate levels and restore balance.
Depending on the underlying cause of the imbalance, as well as the specific hormones in question, treatments can vary, but there are ways to manage symptoms and bring hormone levels back to normal.
If there’s an underlying condition causing the hormone imbalance, long-term management of the condition will help ensure hormonal balance.
Hormone levels change and fluctuate over time; they don’t remain static. It’s important to be aware of your body’s symptoms.
Talk with your health care provider about any changes you might notice, especially after giving birth or while going through perimenopause.