Updated on 10 May 2023
Discovering that you are pregnant is a thrilling experience that brings both excitement and joy. The most common indicator of pregnancy is a missed period, but what if your periods are irregular, to begin with. Let us discover all about irregular periods and when should you take a pregnancy test if you have irregular periods.
Menstruation, or periods as we know them, is a routine exercised by a female's body that anticipates a pregnancy every month, from menarche to menopause. Most women have a menstrual cycle that's 28 days long (though the range varies from 24 to 38 days). If the periods are less than 24 days or more than 38 days apart and the duration of the cycle keeps changing, they are termed irregular.
Other than pregnancy, various factors can lead to irregularity in periods. Irregular periods can cause a delay in pregnancy since ovulation may vary from month to month. Some common causes of irregular periods are:
A woman gets pregnant when she has intercourse during her ovulation period. In the case of irregular periods, determining the period of ovulation gets tricky. But the good news is that a human sperm has a shelf life of five days once ejaculated into a female's body. So, the easiest way to get pregnant with irregular periods is to have regular unprotected sex throughout the month. When intercourse is performed every 2 or 3 days, the chances of the sperm missing the egg get minimal.
When a woman has a regular cycle, a missed period is the most important indicator that she might be pregnant. But in the case of irregular periods, this is unclear since you may be unsure if it is just delayed periods, or if you have missed a period. Most women who have irregular periods have various questions in their minds, such as - When to test pregnancy after sex, when to do a urine pregnancy test, how soon will a pregnancy test read positive, after how many days pregnancy can be confirmed by urine test and when to take a pregnancy test after missed period.
Well, there are many signs that are present even in cases of pregnancy with irregular periods, which you must watch out for:
Implantation of the fertilized egg takes place 1 or 2 weeks after fertilization. It may be mistaken for a light period. The differentiating points are:
Hormonal changes result in low blood sugar levels in the morning leading to nausea, which might or might not be accompanied by vomiting. Though mornings are usually affected, such nausea can bother a pregnant woman any time of the day.
Increased progesterone levels lead to changes in the body that prepares itself for the fertilized ovum. Those changes physically drain pregnant women.
This symptom stays throughout the pregnancy. Pregnant women experience frequent urges to pee because their uterus begins to stretch to make room for the foetus. As a result, the uterus exerts pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination.
Pregnant women may experience sudden mood swings, even early in their pregnancy. This is because of the surge in hormones in the body which causes women to feel moody and emotionally vulnerable.
Breast tenderness or swelling is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. This happens because the body begins to prepare for breastfeeding the baby growing inside the mother's body.
Headaches are a common sign of early pregnancy. Many women experience headaches during their pregnancy.
As the pregnancy progresses, women may experience backache because of the weight gain and expanding belly.
Many women experience peculiar cravings or aversions towards certain food items and their smells. In fact, this likeness may even be towards foods they never liked before and dislike towards foods they used to like.
If you suspect you are pregnant, even if you have irregular periods, you can count 36 days from the start of your last menstrual cycle or 4 weeks from the time you last intercourse. At this time, your HCG levels will be high enough to be detected in a urine test if you are pregnant.
Home pregnancy test kits are usually accurate in ladies with regular periods. But if a lady with irregular periods experiences signs of pregnancy or her periods get later than expected, the situation can get tricky. The kit will detect pregnancy as early as 28 days after the last intercourse as it detects the hCG levels in urine which start rising right after conception.
If the test comes out negative and the signs and symptoms of pregnancy persist, the test should be repeated a few days later. If the test is still negative, you should see a doctor.
If your home pregnancy test comes out negative even after experiencing pregnancy symptoms and an unusually delayed period, you should see a doctor for pregnancy. The doctor will conduct the following examinations to confirm the pregnancy:
In the case of pregnancy with irregular periods, it can be very difficult to determine the due date of delivery using the LMP, i.e., Last Menstrual Period. In such circumstances, ultrasound plays a crucial role. An ultrasound scan can be done at any time after 6 weeks into the pregnancy. It studies the development of the embryo and hence helps calculate the gestational age. This further helps determine the exact due date of delivery.
If pregnancy is confirmed in a lady with irregular periods, the normal protocol is followed as in the case of a lady with regular periods. But, if the pregnancy is not confirmed, she's treated for the underlying causes that lead to irregular periods and other pregnancy-like signs. These may include:
You may also like: Can PCOS Tea Help You Regulate Your Irregular Periods?
Irregular periods are unpredictable and hence confuse a sexually active woman as to whether she is pregnant or not. A keen eye on the symptoms and timely medical intervention help smooth her journey. So, if you have irregular periods but have had an unusually delayed period and experience some other pregnancy symptoms, you can take a pregnancy test to find out if you are pregnant or not.
1. Nobles J, Cannon L, Wilcox AJ. (2022). Menstrual irregularity as a biological limit to early pregnancy awareness. University of California
2. Wilcox AJ, Baird DD, Dunson D, McChesney R, Weinberg CR. (2001). Natural Limits of Pregnancy Testing in Relation to the Expected Menstrual Period. JAMA
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