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Things That Affect Menstrual Cycles

Updated on January 26, 2011

Let's start this with a very basic female biology lesson: There is no such thing as a typical menstrual cycle, and whatever is normal for you now could be totally different in a few years. To use myself as an example I first got my period in junior high school and it lasted two full weeks. I had minimal pain and I had zero PMS. And my cycle was anywhere from 1.5 - 2.5 months apart for the first year or so. 

Oh, to be a teenager again.

By the time I was in my 20s, my cycle was every 6 weeks, give or take, and the cramps were unbearable. PMS was moderate. Aunt Flo stayed for 8-10 days and she was a PITA. Now that I'm in my early 30s, things have changed again. My cycle is now exactly 28 days, cramps are horrid but short-lived and the PMS is frigging insane. This is all bound to change again, of course, but I have learned a lot about what affects the menstrual cycle and how to cope. Here are a few of my tips. 


Are you wound up about something? Wind yourself up enough and you could end up spotting instead of getting your period. You could even skip it entirely if you were stressed enough. And before you go thinking that's a convenient thing to experience, you still get all of the PMS and everything else that goes along with it. And you're likely to stay bloated and blah until the following month. Doesn't sound so convenient now, eh?


I've never been obese (knock wood) but I've been chubby once or twice. During the chubby phase my period was way heavier, lasted way longer, cramps were way worse and things were much more miserable. I am now the thinnest I've been since I was a teenager and, while it's not what I'd call light, it's not heavy-heavy, cramps are manageable and Aunt Flo is gone after 3 or 4 days.

Other Women

Every time I've lived with a girl or worked with a slew of them, my cycle has rescheduled itself to start when theirs started. This is very, very common, and I was actually happy to experience it, cos I always knew when I was going to get it.


No doubt some of you would think this belongs in the stress category, but that's not what I'm on about here. Living with a man can totally change your menstrual cycle. Scientists say that regular nookie and frequent exposure to the hormones in male armpit sweat lead to "more regular" cycles. Armpit sweat; sounds soooo sexy, doesn't it?

Hormone-based Contraceptives

Obvious, but I didn't want to leave it out. The Pill and other hormone-based contraceptives are often used with the intention of regulating a woman's period. This isn't always the case, but it often is.

Medical Conditions

There are some medical conditions, such as hormonal imbalances that can throw your body out of whack. This is why it's good to follow your cycle and keep it in writing. If you have a 4 week cycle that suddenly becomes an 8 week cycle more than once, it's probably worth visiting a doctor just to be on the safe side.


Just thought I'd toss this one in for those women who've missed their period for the last 2 months and still haven't considered pregnancy as a possible cause. It's amazing how often it doesn't occur to some people.


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