If you’ve found yourself Googling, “why is my period late?” We’ve got the answers for you.
Did you know that women today will have an estimated 450 periods throughout their lifetime? With so many periods throughout a life time, it’s likely that at some point yours will occur off schedule — no matter how “like clock-work” your cycle typically is.
For many sexually active women, the first assumed cause for a late period is pregnancy, but in reality, there are various other reasons for irregular periods. In some cases, an irregular cycle might simply be a fluke, but other times, late or missing periods may be a sign of a larger problem. Because of this, even after pregnancy has been ruled out, you should still consult your doctor to investigate your condition further.
In many cases, your periods can return to normal with proper diagnosis and treatment, but it’s up to you to recognize symptoms, and bring attention to the problem first!
So…why is my period late?
To help you complete this important step towards period health and to answer the question of “why is my period late,” we’re outlining 8 common causes for late periods (besides pregnancy).
Stress (whether it be physical or mental) has been tied to health problems in all areas of the body, and the reproductive system is no exception!
Stress has the ability to disrupt your hormones and hypothalamus (the part of your brain responsible for regulating your cycle), potentially causing irregular cycles.
If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, this may very well be the cause of your late, or absent period. Realistically, eliminating stress entirely is nearly impossible, however, you can manage your stress by making healthy lifestyle changes and finding relaxation techniques that work for you!
Being overweight is another factor that may throw off your hormones (and your cycle). If you are overweight and experiencing irregular periods, you should consult your doctor to create a weight loss program that is right for you.
By losing unhealthy weight and improving lifestyle habits (like exercise and diet), you can improve your general health and cycle regularity. Moreover, even if your periods are regular, getting healthier could be a good idea to avoid potential problems in the future.
3. Low body weight/extreme exercise
While losing weight and exercising moderately can help keep your cycle regular, too much exercise or weight loss can actually have the opposite effect.
Having an extremely low body fat/weight, engaging in drastic weight loss, or excessive exercise can decrease your body’s ability to ovulate (and get pregnant). This can cause your cycles to become irregular, or even disappear entirely.
Luckily, once healthy weight is restored, and extreme habits are are stopped, most women can regain their regular cycles and ability to get pregnant. If you believe one of these factors may be contributing to your irregularity, you should work with your doctor to develop a weight restoration plan.
Furthermore, if you believe an eating disorder may be preventing you from gaining weight and/or stopping extreme habits, be sure to consult an eating disorder specialist, so that you can regain your cycle (and your life!).
For more information on eating disorders and how to seek treatment, visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Another cause of irregular periods is a syndrome called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition which causes your body to produce more androgen (a male hormone) than a woman’s body needs. This hormonal imbalance may cause the development of cysts on the ovaries, which can make ovulation (and therefore your cycle) irregular, or stop entirely. Luckily, your doctor can prescribe medications, like birth control, to help balance hormones and improve cycle regularity.
To learn more about PCOS and its symptoms, check out this link. If you believe you may have PCOS, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor for a professional opinion.
5. Birth Control
Although birth control can help some women regulate their cycle, it may also cause irregularity — particularly when a birth control medication has been recently started, stopped, or changed. Instead of asking “why is my period late?” You may actually start getting your period multiple times a month if the birth control you’re on has too low of a dose of estrogen — and who wants that?
Hormonal birth controls (like pills, injections, and implants), work by pumping excess estrogen and progesterin (female hormones) into your body, which effectively halts your ability to ovulate/get pregnant. Unfortunately, irregular cycles may occur as a side effect of these excess hormones in your body, especially while your body is still getting used to a medication.
For most women, cycles will regulate on their own 3-6 months after starting a new birth control. However, If you’re on hormonal birth control and still experiencing irregular cycles after 6 months, or your irregular cycles are causing distress, you should visit your doctor to consider an alternative prevention and/or treatment plan.
6. Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and celiac disease, may also contribute to period irregularities.
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause irregular shifts in blood sugar levels, which has been linked to hormonal changes and irregular cycles.
Celiac disease, on the other hand, can cause you to not properly absorb the nutrients in the food you eat. Nutrient deficiency— whether it is caused by celiac disease or otherwise — can ultimately cause irregular cycles as well.
If you have a chronic disease— or suspect that you might have one — it’s important to see your doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis, and to create a treatment plan moving forward.
7. Early Peri-Menopause
Around the ages 45-55, most women will begin to experience peri-menopause (the period leading up to menopause). During this time, women may experience symptoms of declining estrogen levels, such as irregular periods.
For some women however, peri-menopause may occur early, with symptoms occurring at age 40 or even earlier. If you believe early peri-menopause may be the cause of your irregular periods and you wondering “why is my period late,” be sure to see your doctor. Once a diagnosis is made, you may choose to take hormone therapy (prescribed by your doctor) to help manage your symptoms.
8. Thyroid Issues
Conditions that affect your thyroid (the gland that controls your metabolism), may also affect your period. Both an overactive, and underactive thyroid can cause menstrual irregularities. Typically, over-active thyroids are associated with infrequent, lighter periods, while an under-active thyroid more often causes frequent, heavy bleeding. However, these typical patterns are not absolute, and differ from person to person.
If you believe a thyroid condition may be causing your menstrual irregularities, be sure to see your doctor. Your doctor can run tests to see if your thyroid is working properly, and prescribe (or adjust) medication to regulate your thyroid, if necessary. Fortunately, most women’s periods will normalize once their thyroid levels are regulated through medication.
Determining your cause
As you can see, there’s a wide range of factors and conditions that may be behind your irregular cycle(s), which is why it’s so important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. While asking yourself, “why is my period late?” can be scary, there are a slew of reasons your cycle could be abnormal, although it’s never a bad idea to rule out pregnancy by taking a test (and making sure to have safe sex).
While your doctor can help you to restore normal periods, you can help them by taking care to track, and report any changes/symptoms that you notice day-to-day. With proper attention, diagnosis, and treatment, you can ultimately improve hormonal functioning and get your periods back on track!