8 Reasons Your Period Might Be Late – Other Than Pregnancy

If babies aren’t on the agenda, missing a period can be an incredibly stressful experience. We know, we know: it’s easier said than done, but try not to panic. First things first: could you just be late, as opposed to skipping a period altogether? Bear in mind that very few women have a textbook 28-day cycle. For most, a window of plus or minus three to four days each month is common.

Period arrived but outside of that time frame? Irregular periods are something that most will experience at some stage and for the most part, are nothing to worry about. Phew. Understandably more nerve-wracking is a complete absence of menstruation in a given month, also known as amenorrhea.

Now, if there’s a chance you could be pregnant, you must take a test as soon as you clock your missed period. But what if a bun in the oven is physically impossible, or your home test shows negative? Amenorrhea can occur for multiple reasons in otherwise healthy women, and skipping a period needn’t spark panic. What it might signal, though, is the need for some lifestyle tweaks, or a chat with your doctor.

With that in mind, relax and read on for eight super common reasons your period might be absent or late…

Stress

We all know that stress can cause a whole host of very conspicuous symptoms such as headaches, fluctuating weight, and stomach pains. But below the surface, it can also elevate levels of a hormone called cortisol, which in turn impacts how much oestrogen and progesterone you produce. That can wreak havoc on your monthly cycle, from lateness to skipping a period altogether.

… What to do About It

Whether it’s caused by work, relationships or family, eliminating stress is easier said than done. Things like meditation, regular exercise and a healthy diet can all help – but if stress is prolonged, and particularly if it coincides with more than one missed period, talk to your doctor.

Fluctuating Weight

Both weight loss and weight gain can cause you to skip a period. Excessive fatty tissue produces a type of estrogen called estrone, too much of which can lead to decreased ovulation – and by extension, missed menses. The same is also true of shedding pounds: dramatic and sudden weight loss in particular can send hormones haywire and cause you to skip your period.

… What to do About It
A balanced diet and regular exercise is the foundation of well-being, and that includes healthy menstrual and reproductive health. Your ‘ideal’ weight range depends on a host of factors, including things like height, muscle mass and age; talk to your doctor, who’ll also be able to advise on the healthiest route to the right weight for you.

Excessive Exercise

They say all things in moderation and that’s certainly the case when it comes to exercise. From combating stress to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s important we keep moving. But excessive exercise can impede excretion of certain hormones, resulting in missed or delayed periods.

… What to do About It
Your body knows what it needs; listen to it! If all your energy is going into working out, there won’t be enough to function properly. Looking ahead, that can cause longer-term problems including infertility and osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about how to optimize your training for tip-top health.

Certain medications

If your menses are MIA, it’s worth reading up on listed side effects of any medications you’re currently taking. An obvious culprit is th contraceptive pill, which works by suppressing your body’s natural release of hormones to replace actual periods with lookalike withdrawal bleeds. Aside from those times women choose to deliberately skip a ‘period,’ you may find that some brands do too good a job at keeping hormones in check, meaning very light or no bleeding. Certain antidepressant and antipsychotic meds can also cause cycle irregularities, as can chemotherapy.

… What to do About It
If you’ve missed a period and think your prescribed meds might be to blame, talk to your doctor. They may tell you it’s nothing to worry about – or be able to recommend an alternative course of treatment.

Thyroid Disorders

Located at the front of the neck, your thyroid gland is a key player in secreting hormones that impact everything from metabolism and development to, you guessed it, women’s menstrual cycle. In particular, an under-active thyroid – hypothyroidism – can increase levels of the hormone prolactin, linked to ovulation.

… What to do About It
Talk to your doctor! They’ll start with a physical examination, and take a blood test to diagnose. It’s commonly treated by with a synthetic version of a hormone called thyroxine to completely control symptoms.

Shifting Schedules

Although impressive in its adaptability, the human body is a creature of habit in so much as it can take a while to adjust to changes in schedule. The menstrual cycle is hormonally synched with our circadian rhythms, that is, our biological responses to things like light, time and temperature over the course of a day. Nurses switching from day shifts to night, for example, or long-distance flight personnel grappling with constant jet-lag are all susceptible to slight – but inevitably unnerving – cycle changes.

… What to do About It
Track changes in schedules so you don’t immediately panic should Aunt Flo arrive a little later than usual – unnecessary stress only makes things worse! Wherever possible, try to stick to your usual amount of sleep.

Perimenopause

From her thirties to her forties, or sometimes even later, the exact age a woman starts transitioning towards menopause varies. Spanning the subtle to the downright upsetting, symptoms can include mood swings, hot flashes and incontinence. Underpinning all of these changes are unstable estrogen levels as ovulation gradually winds down. As that happens, periods may get lighter and less regular.

… What to do About It
Irregular periods are a totally natural side effect of the equally normal perimenopause. That said, there’s no need to suffer in silence: if your symptoms are impacting your quality of life, speak to your doctor.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Caused by imbalanced reproductive hormones, studies pitch polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as affecting between 8% and 20% of women worldwide. Benign cysts aside, it can cause a host of symptoms from hirsutism to weight gain, but its primary trait is, you guessed it, irregular periods. That’s because among other things, those unruly hormones disrupt ovulation, meaning women with PCOS may not get a period monthly – or even at all.
… What to do About It
If you think your irregular periods might be down to PCOS, talk to your doctor. They’ll ask you about your cycle, test your blood for hormone levels, and possibly send you for an ultrasound. Because of the wide range of symptoms associated with PCOS, treatments vary but the contraceptive pill is common. Also good to know: PCOS needn’t rule out a future pregnancy someday when you’re good and ready.

Final thoughts

Next time your period is late or AWOL – and trust us, it happens to most women at some point – try to keep calm. Obviously, the only way to know whether you’re pregnant is to take a test. But before you do that, bear in mind that your amenorrhea could very well be due to something other than pregnancy. If that’s the case, do chat with your doctor about getting things back on track and restoring harmony to your hormones.

 

 

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