The length of a healthy menstrual cycle is 28 days. Shorter cycles could be 24 days long and longer cycles could be 31 days long; it isn't really abnormal.
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But if the periods are irregular quite often then it could be an indication that something is wrong somewhere. Either your diet, lifestyle, sleep cycles or something else could have been the reason behind the disturbed cycles.
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It is better to consult a gynecologist if your periods are frequently too late or too early. Now, let us discuss about certain things that could mess up with your cycles.
Some health experts say that very intense exercise and dangerously low amounts of body fat could stress up the body and slow down the secretions of certain hormones. Fertility levels may dip and periods could get irregular.
Even medications could affect periods. Especially, medicines which alter hormonal levels (example: medication used for thyroid) may also disturb the cycles. It is better to tell your doctor if your cycles go haywire that too, after taking any medication.
Even frequent traveling to various countries could also alter the cycles as the body clock struggles hard to adjust itself to new time zones and climates.
Even obesity could affect periods. Excessive body fat could raise estrogen levels and this could affect periods in many ways. Generally, periods could be infrequent and too long. Also, excessive estrogen levels could also cause endometrial cancer.
Chronic stress could drastically affect the cycles. In fact, stressful environments aren't favourable for reproduction and that is why the body postpones the cycles if stress levels are too high.
Irregular sleeping patterns could also throw the cycles off the balance. When the body clock gets disturbed, even the reproductive hormones do get affected. In fact women who work in the night shifts may sometimes experience late periods.
Exposure to pesticides may also affect monthly cycles as pesticides could alter hormonal action in the body.
Age could be one reason. Women who approach the stage of menopause tend to experience infrequent periods.
Anorexia could also interfere with the cycles as estrogen levels may dip when one is underweight. Generally, those who lose too much of weight in a short span of time may experience disturbed cycles.