Is it Normal for Teenagers to Have Irregular Periods?

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Having an irregular period during puberty is normal and something that parents shouldn't be too concerned about if their teen is not showing any other signs of health problems, headaches, or pain.

At this age, menstruation can start and stop for many reasons, one of them being the start of puberty and growth spurts. If your child is experiencing irregular periods, learn what you can do to help and when you should consult a health professional.

What Is an Irregular Period?

Most teens will get their first period sometime between age 10 and 15. Some teens will get their period earlier and some will get theirs later, but once they start their period it can take 2 years before they follow a regular cycle. Periods during this timeframe are considered irregular periods.

For example, one month a teen may get their period after 24 days, the next month it may take 42 days. It's also normal to skip periods. Irregular periods are very normal in the first few years and can be influenced by a number of things. Illness, weight change, and stress can all make periods irregular. Usually, irregular periods are nothing to worry about.

What Causes Irregular Periods in Teenagers?

When teens first start their period, a lot of unusual things can happen, like getting their period every other week, not getting their period for 2 months or getting their period for a longer time. This is a normal part of puberty. Their cycle is getting ready to become just that, a cycle and it can take up to 2 years to be a steady cycle, and for some it never does.

Sometimes irregular periods are caused by factors other than normal development. For instance, some medicines can cause irregular periods as can exercising too much. Not eating enough calories or having a low bodyweight (or even a high body weight) can cause irregular periods as well.

There also is a chance that hormone imbalances are causing an irregular period. When thyroid hormone levels are are too low or too high, that can cause issues with the period or even make them irregular. Extra androgen, which causes hair growth on the face, chin, chest, and abdomen, also can cause irregular periods as can being pregnant. In this case, a teen will not have a period at all.

Ways to Cope

If your teen is struggling with irregular periods, there are some things you can do to support them until their menstrual cycle becomes more regular. For instance, you can begin by encouraging them to keep supplies on hand should they need them.

Help them brainstorm areas where they can keep tampons or pads in case of an emergency such as in their backpack, locker, purse, car, and other easily accessible areas should their period arrive when they least expect it. They also may want to consider wearing menstrual underwear such as Thinx to avoid any embarrassing accidents or wear a panty liner when they are expecting their period to arrive.

It also can be helpful to teach them how to recognize the signs that they are about to start their period. These are different for everyone but can include tender breasts, food cravings, grumpiness, bloating, and sometimes even acne.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Keep in mind, that there are some symptoms that should prompt you to see a healthcare provider so that they can assess the symptoms, make a diagnosis if an underlying condition is causing the problem, and recommend a treatment to help make regulate the menstrual cycle.

Some signs that you should talk to a physician include:

  • The sudden absence of a period
  • Regular periods that become irregular
  • Periods that are very heavy
  • Periods that last more than a week
  • Periods that occur more than every 21 days
  • Periods occurring less than every 45 days
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Severe cramping or abdominal pain

That said, if your teen is showing no other signs, like being extremely lethargic, getting sick to their stomach and such, just keep an eye on them. However, calling a healthcare provider to get an opinion is always a good idea.

A Word From Verywell

While irregular periods are often common in teenagers, that does not mean that they are not a sign of another problem. For this reason, you may want to use a calendar or a period tracking app to keep track of symptoms and periods. This information can be invaluable to a healthcare provider when making a diagnosis.

Keep in mind, though, that periods are different for everyone. Just make sure your teen is eating a nutritious diet, getting some sort of exercise, and making wise choices. You also can provide support by helping them cope with the annoyance and discomfort of periods.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nemours Teens Health. Irregular periods.

By Denise Witmer
Denise Witmer is a freelance writer and mother of three children, who has authored several books and countless articles on parenting teens since 1997.