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It is well known that menstrual bleeding (period) occurs approximately every 28 days (± 4 days). Although some variations can be normal, menstrual bleeding at intervals of greater than 35-36 days may indicate oligomenorrhea — abnormally infrequent menstrual bleeding characterized by three to six menstrual cycles per year.

In most cases late periods start from puberty but it may develop suddenly or it may follow a period of gradually lengthening cycles. Sometimes late periods could transform into secondary amenorrhea (secondary absence of period).

Very often in puberty (beginning of the menstrual cycle) and after 50 (end of menstrual cycles) females can have irregular periods (late periods). It is normal and is usually the result of imperfect coordination between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries (all hormones). Very rare for no apparent reason, some women menstruate (with ovulation occurring) on a regular schedule as infrequently as once every two months. For these mentioned groups of women late periods can be considered temporary and/or normal.

As late (delayed) periods are commonly associated with anovulation, it’s common in infertile, early postmenarchal, and perimenopausal women. This sign usually reflects abnormalities of the hormones that govern normal endometrial function.

Concerned about oligomenorrhea

Oligomenorrhea symptoms

  • menstrual periods at intervals of more than 35-36 days;
  • unusually light menstrual flow;
  • irregular menstrual periods with unpredictable flow – only 4 to 9 periods in the whole year;
  • difficulty conceiving – infertility

Young women whose oligomenorrhea is associated with the female athlete triad may have such other symptoms of the triad as frequent stress fractures, particularly in the bones of the hips, spine, or lower legs; abnormal eating patterns or extremely restrictive diets; and abnormal heart rhythms or low blood pressure.

Oligomenorrhea causes

Oligomenorrhea can be a symptom of several medical conditions and main causes of oligomenorrhea include the following:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS);
  • Puberty;
  • Female Athlete Triad;
  • Adrenal hyperplasia;
  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia nervosa);
  • Diabetes;
  • Hypothyroidism;
  • Thyrotoxicosis;
  • Hyperprolactinemia (prolactin-secreting pituitary tumor);
  • Stress;
  • Peri-menopause;
  • Chronic illnesses and drug abuse.


Women suffering from late periods could develop the following complications:

  • Infertility,
  • Osteoporosis,
  • Cardiovascular diseases,
  • Uterine cancer.


As oligomenorrhea can be a symptom of several health conditions and diseases, the treatment should be done according to the main cause of oligomenorrhea.

Puberty and Pre-menopause – Menopausal women and teenagers usually do not require any treatment.

Increased physical activities – Athletes suffering from oligomenorrhea (due to intense training and steroids) are recommended to have a balanced diet rich in nutrients.

Birth control pills – Pills are well known as a method for regulating menstrual dysfunctions. Birth control pills are also prescribed to correct the hormonal imbalance during oligomenorrhea.

PCOS – Treatments during PCOS mainly include hormonal drugs or injections which could regulate menstrual cycle and stimulate normal ovulation.

Eating disorders – Oligomenorrhea developed because of eating disorder is usually treated by psychotherapy and medical treatment. If woman is overweight then she is advised to reduce weight to normal according to BMI.

Hyperprolactinemia and Tumors – If the cause of oligo-menorrhea is a tumor then it could be treated by bromocroptine or tumor could be surgically removed.

Risk groups

  • Women with Female Athlete Triad.
  • Professional ballet dancers, sportsmen/gymnasts, and ice skaters;
  • Models and weight addicted teenagers;
  • Women with hormonal dysfunctions;
  • Stressful professions or stressful life;
  • Women with chronic diseases;
  • Women using drugs.


Oligo-menorrhea is preventable only in women whose low body fat to weight ratio is keeping them from maintaining a regular menstrual cycle. Adequate nutrition and less vigorous training schedules for female athletes will normally prevent oligomenorrhea. When oligo-menorrhea is caused by hormonal factors, however, it is not preventable, but is usually treatable.

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