Reasons to Delay Periods or Irregular Periods
It’s easy to jump to conclusions when you realize your period is late. If you’re trying to conceive, you may feel excitement and a sense of disbelief. If you’re not, you might feel fear or disappointment, not to mention utter confusion if you know there’s no way you could be pregnant. The fact is, though most people automatically think of pregnancy anytime a period is late, it could be that — or one of many other possibilities. Here’s a rundown of the common reasons for a missed period.
Major Weight Loss or Excessive Exercise
“This is a reason I see not that infrequently in my office,” says Dweck. “If your BMI rapidly dips below 18 or 19, you may start to miss periods.” This isn’t strictly based on BMI, though. Serious conditions like anorexia and bulimia can cause a missed period, but so can training for a marathon or some other major event that requires you to exercise more than usual. “Nature has a way of protecting you from getting pregnant if your body is under such extreme stress. Your body prevents ovulation so you don’t have a lot of estrogen, don’t build a big uterine lining, and then don’t get a period,” says Dweck.
A big scary event in your life can cause hypothalamic amenorrhea. “This particular area of the brain, the hypothalamus, is where a lot of the hormones for your period are regulated,” says Dweck. “The hypothalamus is very affected by stress.” So if you’re dealing with a big move, death in the family, huge breakup, or any other life event that’s shaking you up, it could be the cause of your late period or missed period.
A Thyroid Irregularity
The thyroid gland, located in your neck, regulates your metabolism. It also interacts with many other systems in your body to keep things running smoothly. “If you’re dealing with any type of thyroid imbalance, whether it’s hypo- or hyperthyroidism, that can have implications for your period,” says Dweck. If you notice other symptoms of a thyroid disorder, check in with your doctor for an official diagnosis.
Polycystic Ovary Symptom
PCOS is a hormone imbalance that comes down to a lack of ovulation, so you have altered levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. “We’re seeing a lot more of this, although there are varying degrees. It can cause you to completely miss your period or just not menstruate regularly,” says Dweck. Other PCOS symptoms include hair growth in places like the face and chest, difficulty losing weight, and potential fertility issues. Your doctor can help you come up with a treatment plan to manage the condition.
Chronic Diseases Like Celiac
“I know celiac disease is on everyone’s mind right now,” says Dweck, referring to the disease that’s characterized by gluten intolerance. “Any chronic disease that’s left untreated or undiagnosed is a stressor to your general system and can result in missed periods.” Think celiac may be the cause of your late period or missed period? Here’s how to figure out if you should get tested.
Your Birth Control
A missed period or late period can actually be a harmless byproduct of the measures you take to avoid pregnancy. “Some low-dose pills will cause a lack of menses that isn’t dangerous and is many times a welcome side effect,” says Dweck. The same goes for methods like hormonal IUDs, implants, or shots. It can also take some time for your period to come back if you’ve stopped birth control, but it will usually resume without issue in a few months.
When women under 40 have hormones misfiring in a significant way, they can go through premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian failure. Along with a missed period, signs of it include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. “This isn’t very common, so you shouldn’t immediately worry about it,” says Dweck. If your gyno rules out the many other potential causes and thinks this may be the culprit, she’ll clue you in.
Sometimes a late period means exactly what you think: There’s a little bun in the oven! Because early pregnancy symptoms like abdominal cramping, bloating and breast tenderness are similar to what you may experience in the days before menstruation, it can be difficult to tell if your period is simply off by a few days or you’re pregnant. If your period is late and you’ve had unprotected sex, take a home pregnancy test. A week after the date you expected your period gives the most accurate results, but many home test manufacturers promise to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (better known as hCG, the hormone released during pregnancy) sooner.
Think back to the time you should have ovulated. If you were sick, whether with a simple cold or something more serious, the stress could have put your body into that “which function is most important” phase mentioned above. So ovulation could have been delayed or didn’t happen. That means your period will also be late or nonexistent. If illness around the time of ovulation caused your skipped period, Aunt Flo’ will likely return once things are back to normal.
Your weight can affect your hypothalamus, a gland in your brain responsible for regulating various processes in the body — including your menstrual cycle. Extreme weight loss, a low caloric intake or being very underweight stresses the hypothalamus, and your body won’t release the estrogen needed to build the lining of the uterus. The same happens with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, which also cause estrogen levels to dip too low. On the other hand, being overweight or gaining a lot in a short amount of time can cause your body to produce too much estrogen. The overload may cause you to go for months without ovulating or cause the endometrial lining to overgrow and become unstable, resulting in heavy, irregular periods. Usually, gaining weight if you’re underweight or losing if you’re overweight should help your periods to return to normal.
CHANGE IN SCHEDULE
Believe it or not, switching things up — for instance, working the night shift instead of the day or vice versa, or travelling across the country — can throw off your body clock, which regulates your hormones (including those responsible for your period).Sometimes this results in a missed or delayed period, but it should return when your body gets used to the change or your schedule goes back to normal.
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