If your menstrual cycle is unpredictable or unusually long, you might not want to ignore it. According to a new study, women with irregular periods are 34% more likely to die earlier than women with regular periods.
At the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting this week, researchers presented results from a 20-year survey of almost 100,000 females. The data suggests that among females with irregular periods, girls aged 14-17 are 21% more likely to die, and women aged 18-22 are 34% more likely to die, when compared to females with regular periods.
But this is no reason to throw up your hands and accept your fate.
“This is simply an association,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, the vice president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. “When the period isn’t naturally coming in a regular monthly fashion, it’s probably a sign of some other underlying condition that may be serious. You can’t read much into cause and effect here, but clearly someone not getting a consistent period every 28 days on average should see a physician, because there are often some very simple problems we can detect and correct that will prevent these long-term health consequences.”
Because it was a simple survey, the researchers couldn’t identify the underlying conditions. But some conditions associated with irregular periods include endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid problems, and cancer.
Taylor hopes the findings of the study will encourage women and girls with irregular periods to seek treatment, instead of just tolerating the troublesome symptoms.
“A period is sometimes unpleasant, but it is an early barometer that men don’t have. Women have an important window into their health status that can prevent long-term consequences.”