Treating prolonged menstrual cycles

Q: My menstrual cycles range from 35-90 days in length. I am not underweight, I don’t exercise excessively and hormone tests (TSH, prolactin, thyroid) have revealed nothing. What other options might I explore to determine what is “off” in my cycle?

A: Since your thyroid and prolactin tests turned out normal, it’s likely that the problem is something called polycystic ovarian syndrome (also called chronic anovulation syndrome). It is associated with infrequent menses or a lack of menses or irregular menses and some women will also have acne or even excess hair growth. A pelvic exam might sometimes – but not always – reveal enlarged ovaries, numerous small cysts in the ovaries on pelvic ultrasound , and/or elevated serum testosterone levels. I encourage you to ask your gynecologist, or any other practitioner who is knowledgeable in gynecology, about this condition.

Other considerations might be stress, a protein or essential fatty acid deficiency, smoking, and excess alcohol consumption. I don’t know how old you are, but prolonged infrequent menses can lead to an increase in risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and endometrial hyperplasia. I will refrain from offering specific treatment suggestions at this time, since we don’t know yet what is causing the problem. But if you don’t have polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it is a matter of chronic lack of ovulation due to mixed messages between the brain, hormones and ovaries, then an herb like chaste tree is ideal. Chaste tree works on the pituitary gland to stimulate regular ovulation.

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