Nothing is scarier than missing your period. But, before you panic buy a pregnancy test, you should know that there are a million other reasons why your aunt flo may be late to the party.
Most women experience their period every 28 days, but it’s also common for menstrual cyclesto be shorter or longer, and their length may change over time. Some people even find themselves having completely irregular periods. These changes and irregularities don’t always mean one thing and could be the result of a range of factors, including stress, exercise, diet and even weight loss.
Here are the most common reasons why your period might be late:
If you’re sexually active and experience a missed period, it may be a sign of pregnancy. Depending on your situation, this may be good or bad news, but it’s always a good idea to wait a few days and take a test to be sure.
Stress doesn’t just take its toll on your mental health, but it can also affect your menstrual cycle by making it shorter, longer or more painful.
Avoiding and managing stress through rest, exercise and meditation can help regulate your menstrual cycle. However, if your stress is chronic or caused by an underlying health condition, then it’s best to consult a GP or therapist.
3. Weight loss/ gain
If you have experienced rapid weight loss, it may explain why your period is late. The harsh restriction of calories often associated with weight loss can stop the production of hormones necessary for the menstrual cycle to function.
On the other hand, if you have gained weight or are generally overweight, you may be overproducing oestrogen, which can also cause your periods to stop.
Rapid weight loss or gain is commonly seen as concerning and can be caused by eating disorders, underlying conditions and even medications. If you have been experiencing rapid weight changes, then a trip to the GP will be necessary to find a solution.
4. Too much exercise
It’s not just mental stress that can alter your menstrual cycle; the physical stress from over-exercising can also affect your hormone production. If you have lost a lot of body fat from exercise, this could also prevent you from ovulating.
If over-exercise is delaying your period, then consult your GP and reduce your activity levels.
5. Birth Control
It’s not uncommon for contraceptive pills to cause changes in the menstrual cycle. Some types of birth control even allow you to skip your periods on purpose or cause your endometrium to be so thin that your period is missed altogether.
Other methods like the Progestogen-Only Pill (mini pill) and the Mirena rod can cause your period to stop completely. However, once you discontinue these birth control methods, your period should return to normal.
In most cases, a period missed due to birth control can be considered normal, but don’t hesitate to follow up with a GP if you have any concerns.
Both menopause and perimenopause can cause your period to be late. For most people, menopause occurs in their late 40s and early 50s, but in the 10-15 years beforehand, oestrogen levels start to decrease, resulting in some late or missed periods. Once a person has not had their period in a year, it is safe to say they have passed menopause and will likely not experience a period again.
7. Hormonal disorders
Hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid conditions can disturb the menstrual cycle. A blood test can easily pick up many hormone imbalances, but a doctors appointment will be necessary to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
PCOS is one of the most common hormonal imbalances and occurs in one in every ten women in the UK. This condition causes people to have an abnormally large number of follicles in their ovaries, many of which never make it to maturity or release an egg, resulting in a missed period. If you believe you may have PCOS, it is essential to be diagnosed by a doctor. If left untreated, this condition could later lead to endometrial cancer.
Other symptoms that can indicate a hormone disorder include:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Facial hair growth
- Digestive issues
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of sex drive
- Skin hyperpigmentation
- Vaginal dryness
- Muscle and joint pain
When to see a doctor
If you experience a missed or late period and are unsure why then it is important to consult your doctor, especially if you:
- Have a positive pregnancy test.
- Suspect you may have PCOS.
- Have gained or lost a lot of weight.
- Are feeling overly stressed or anxious.
- Have missed more than three periods in a row.
Keeping a diary of your symptoms each month, including the start and end date of your period, will help your doctor determine any problems. There are many apps existing that make period tracking an easy feat, including Flo, Clue, and Life.