Long Menstrual Cycle

Definition - What does Long Menstrual Cycle mean?

A long menstrual cycle can be defined as a cycle occurring at intervals of longer than the normal 35-day time-frame or a cycle in which a woman has fewer than six to eight periods per year. Although the cycle can be regular or irregular, it is often irregular. In a regular cycle, the gap between two cycles is consistent as opposed to an irregular cycle where the bleeding may occur abruptly without any fixed date. The periods should have been regularly established before developing infrequent bleeding to meet the criterion of oligomenorrhea. Infertility is a common problem for women with long menstrual cycles.

A long menstrual cycle is also called oligomenorrhea.

FertilitySmarts explains Long Menstrual Cycle

During the first phase of the menstrual cycle, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the ovary to develop a follicle that encloses an egg. The follicle drives the estrogen levels, which prompt the uterine lining to thicken and the pituitary to release a vast amount of LH. This midcycle LH surge stimulates the release of an egg from the ovary, sparking ovulation. After ovulation, if fertilization does not occur, a withdrawal of estrogen and progesterone triggers the shedding of the endometrium. However, in the absence of ovulation, the endometrial shedding and bleeding will fail to occur normally, leading to infrequent menstruation.

Various factors can trigger a long menstrual cycle:

  • Reduction of or an absence of ovulation such as occurs in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hormonal birth control pills
  • Being overweight can disrupt the regularity of the menstrual cycles
  • Intensive work-outs or heavy participation in sports
  • Eating disorders that interfere with the interaction between the hypothalamus and pituitary, and the ovaries
  • High blood levels of a hormone called prolactin as occurs in pregnancy and during lactation

In addition to the irregular bleeding, women with long menstrual cycles may experience other symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), such as:

  • Male-pattern hair growth
  • Acne
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Infertility due to the absence of ovulation
  • Increased risk of endometrial overgrowth (called endometrial hyperplasia) or even endometrial cancer

In women presenting with infrequent menstruation, a doctor will generally take a complete physical history, perform a thorough physical examination, and do hormonal testing and ultrasound examinations.

The treatment for a long menstrual cycle entails identifying and treating the underlying disorder.

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