Obesity and Menstruation
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A regular period in women is considered to be a sign of good health. It shows that the body is in normal working condition. It is possible that women may have missed or irregular periods because of pregnancy, breastfeeding, due to menopause or a health condition.[1] However, sometimes, the absence or irregularities in periods can stem from obesity.[2]

Menstrual health

The acceptable average number of days between periods in a healthy woman is from 24 to 38 days. If your period cycle is less than 24 days or more than 38 days, your periods are considered to be irregular, and you should consult a healthcare provider. Moreover, if the number of days between each cycle varies significantly from month to month, you may have irregular periods. Usually, irregular periods are experienced in girls for the first few years after the onset of their periods, after which they regularise. A woman who is transitioning into menopause (perimenopausal) may also experience irregular periods. However, health conditions such as obesity can also cause irregular periods.[1]

Obesity and menstrual health

According to global guidelines, obesity can be explained as a state where the body mass index (BMI) of a person is 30 or higher. Several health problems can arise from obesity, such as heart and stomach disorders, diabetes and bone health issues.3 Menstrual issues can also be caused by obesity and include:[1],[2]
● Irregular periods
● Scanty periods
● Missed or no periods
● Heavy periods

The impact of irregular periods

Having irregular, heavy or painful periods can be a sign of a major health problem.[1] Obese women tend to have more menstrual irregularity as compared to nonobese women. In particular, a high BMI and abdominal obesity was seen to be associated with menstrual irregularity, which in turn resulted in higher rate of infertility in women.[4]

How does obesity cause menstrual problems?

Obesity causes an imbalance in the ovulatory function in women. Also, adipose tissue (or fatty tissue) is a possible source of the hormone oestrogen.[4] The presence of extra oestrogen causes a disruption in the normal menstrual cycle and can cause the periods to be heavy, irregular and even lead to missed periods.[1]

Treatment

A healthy body with optimal body weight is important for maintaining a normal menstrual cycle.[4]
If you have a high BMI and find yourself experiencing very heavy or irregular periods, ensure you make an appointment with your gynaecologist and with the gym too. Make sure you exercise regularly. Follow a healthy diet, limit your snacks and maintain a journal to keep a watch on your eating habits. Monitor your weight regularly, as it has been observed that people who weigh themselves at least once a week are more likely to keep away the excess weight.[3]
It has been noticed that if periods have stopped due to excess weight, they will usually restart after losing weight.[1]
While the impact that obesity has on your menstrual health is undeniable, it is important to understand that it is also well within your control to set things in motion and free yourself from the overweight that is weighing down your life.

References:

  1. Office on Women’s Health. Period problems [Internet]. [updated 2018 Mar 16; cited 2020 Jan 8]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/period-problems.
  2. Seif MW, Diamond K, Nickkho-Amiry M. Obesity and menstrual disorders. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2015 May;29(4):516-27. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2014.10.010.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Obesity [Internet]. [updated 2019 Aug 22; cited 2020 Jan 8]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742.
  4. Kim JH. Body weight changes in obese women and menstruation. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2017 Jun;32(2):219-220. DOI: 10.3803/EnM.2017.32.2.219.

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