When you’re not trying to get pregnant, missing your period can feel like the absolute worst-case scenario. While many people have the blessing of regular menstrual cycles, it is also possible to accidentally skip a period or two.
The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, but any cycle lasting from 21-35 days can still be considered healthy. Additionally, there are many reasons other than pregnancy that someone may have missed their monthly.
Reasons why you may have missed a period
Missing your period is one of the most well-known signs of pregnancy. However, if you’ve successfully ruled that option out, then there are plenty more reasons you’ve skipped your period.
Puberty and menopause
Aside from pregnancy, those who are just entering puberty or nearing menopause can also expect to have irregular periods.
Stress is one of the most common reasons for a missed period. This is because high levels of stress can cause a hormonal imbalance, and chronic periods of stress can also lead to weight gain and other illnesses. If you believe stress may be causing you to miss your period, try and find some time to relax and sort through what may be making you anxious.
Low body weight
If your body weight is too low, either from eating disorders, physical activity, stress or even just naturally, this may cause a hormonal change and result in a missed period.
Like low body weight, having a high body weight or being obese can also cause hormonal changes resulting in a missed period.
Changing, stopping or starting birth control can cause hormonal changes and missed periods. Birth control pills contain a mix of progesterone and oestrogen, which can prevent the body from releasing eggs. Usually, your period should return after three months; however, some types of pills may cause irregular cycles. Other types of hormonal birth control can also have a similar effect.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal condition where the body produces more androgens - or male hormones - than expected. This can result in missed periods or irregular cycles, an increase in abnormal body hair, weight gain, thinning hair and oily skin. If you feel you might have PCOS, a doctors appointment is recommended. If left undiagnosed and untreated, PCOS can lead to further health problems in the future.
Having an underactive or overactive thyroid can also cause missed and irregular menstruation. This is because the thyroid regulates the metabolism and can therefore cause hormone imbalances.
Medication side effects
Some medications cause missed periods. If you are taking regular medication, it’s best to check the side effects it can cause or call your doctor to ask.
Some chronic diseases such as diabetes and celiac disease can also cause missed periods. Blood sugar can affect hormones leading to missed or late periods. Meanwhile, inflammatory conditions such as celiac can affect the body’s nutrient intake, contributing to an absent Aunt Flo.
If you believe you may have uncontrolled diabetes or another chronic illness, it’s best to check with a healthcare professional.
When to see a doctor
While it may be normal to miss a period, the underlying reasons behind it, such as PCOS or chronic illness, may require medical attention. If you usually have a regular cycle and have missed a period, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to figure out why.
Doctors appointments should also be booked when:
- You have missed more than three periods in a row
- You have excruciating period cramps
- You get a period more than every 21 days
- Your bleeding is much heavier than normal
- You have a fever
- You experience any bleeding after menopause