Irregular periods are a common symptom of menopause - in fact, they're a nessesary symptom of menopause. Because menopause is defined as the complete cessation of ovulation, irregular periods are the only real guaranteed symptom leading up to menopause. During the menopausal transition, estrogen levels decrease and she slowly stops ovulating until menstruation has ceased entirely.
Why Are My Estrogen Levels Low?
During menopause, the body decreases production of estrogen and other sex hormones. As levels fluctuate, the body attempts to adjust to the new levels, which can cause menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irregular periods.
Ovulation and Estrogen Levels
There are several reasons that ovulation may not be occurring.
The ovaries are not being told what to do
Women with a low body weight, are frequently under high stress, or in perimenopause tend to have irregular periods. These women have very low estrogen production, so the body has trouble communicating to the ovaries that eggs need to be released, and ovulation does not take place.
The ovaries are incapable of producing an egg
If you've been diagnosed with low estrogen levels, the next step is testing the blood level of the pituitary hormone follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) - a hormone produced by the pituitary gland telling the ovaries to make estrogen and to prepare the eggs for ovulation. When an ovary doesn't have any eggs, or can't release them, the pituitary gland sends out more and more FSH in an attempt to get the ovary to respond.
The uterine lining is not being shed
Even if ovulation has occurred, changing hormone levels may mean the uterine lining is not shedding like normal. This can cause the lining to build up, and when a menstrual period does finally occur, it may be heavy and painful due to the accumulation of the lining.
If you are experiencing other symptoms alongside irregular periods, such as abdominal pain, it is important to see a doctor to rule out other conditions. Irregular periods can be a sign of a variety of other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (POCS) or uterine cancer. A doctor will be able to do a few simple tests to rule these out.
If you wish to regularize your periods or alleviate discomfort due to these irregulars, you may want to click the following link to learn more about how to deal with irregular periods.