Illustration by Katrin Friemann

Fertility

How weight, height, and age affect your menstrual cycle

by Dr. Vedrana H?gqvist Tabor, Former Head of Science at Clue
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Genetics determine our height and body type. And initially, they determine our cyclicity too. But just as weight fluctuates due to outside factors, the menstrual cycle will also vary in response to changes in age and weight.

As scientists, we are aware how important is to have a good data pool to explore. Accurate information will enable us to make the predictions increasingly specific and applicable to more than period and PMS.

This is why we added age, height and weight into Clue’s new “About You” profile. These facts about you will bring Clue to the next level of precision.

Age and BMI (body mass index) will have a major impact on your cycle. They will modify the cyclicity blueprint encrypted in our genes. Our genetically predetermined clock will dictate how fast and long we dwell in each of the different life stages (adolescence, adulthood and menopause), but our lifestyle habits can modify, extend or shorten each stage.

Our genes can also be seen as a framework, into which our life habits leave dents. The combination of the two shape our menstrual experiences on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

There is a greater probability for us to initially share similar cycle profiles with our biological ancestors, siblings and progeny. But it is also interesting to see how the cycles will differ, and to understand does the difference come from the lifestyle, genetic combinations/mutations that happened for the first time in our family tree.

That is where knowing our current lifestyles and analyzing our cyclicity against the backdrop of our age, BMI and life habits comes in handy. Individuals with a combination of similar life styles and age might also experience similar cycles.

Our Medical Advisor, Dr. Aparna Sridhar explains:

“Menstrual cycles do change with women’s age! With menarche, menstrual cycles are usually heavy and irregular for the first few years in some women. Over the late teen and 20s the cycles become more regular. Menstrual cycles are shortest and have the least variability for women in 30s. As women enter their 40s, the loss of ovarian follicles results in increasing length of menstrual cycle. Once all the ovarian follicles are depleted, women enter menopause and menstrual cycle ends.”

The second very important category is BMI (body mass index) . It is known to impact regularity of the period. Both extremes — underweight and overweight/obese — can lead to variations in the menstrual cycle due to de-regulation of hormonal pathways. However, even the smaller changes in weight not placing us in another BMI zone may be strong enough to cause shifts in our hormones and as a consequence changes in our cyclicity.

*“Changes in body weight can change menstruation patterns. We know that extremes of body mass index are associated with changes in menstrual cycle patterns and fertility patterns. A minimum proportion of body weight is needed to initiate menstrual cycles and maintain them. Thus, women who lose too much weight or are underweight can have changes in menstruation including but not limited to cessation of menstruation or prolonged periods of amenorrhea. Also, excess body weight and body fat is associated with irregular and heavy menstrual cycles. Women who are obese have higher chance of menstrual cycle disorders compared to those who have normal body mass index. Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome are common in obese women.” *-Dr. Sridhar

Approximately 50% of the world’s population menstruates. Organizing this huge sample by age, weight and lifestyle will allow Clue to provide more valuable personal insights.

Providing predictive insights for different groups will help the “newcomers,” transitioning life stages, to faster understand how reproductive health will look in the next 1–5 and ten years. Yes, our physiology is not a static thing, we should take active care of it.

It is a long time span, and we do want to understand our cyclicity. For many reasons, some of them you know today, the rest we will learn on the way.

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