It’s easy to think that you’re pregnant when you realize your period is late.
However if you’re not trying to conceive nor having sex, there may be other reasons why you have a delay in your menstrual cycle.
Here are 8 of them.
You already know stress can have a number of unpleasant side effects, like headaches, weight gain and acne — and it can also affect your menstrual cycle. When you’re under physical or emotional stress, your body produces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Elevated levels force the brain to decide which bodily functions are essential and which are nonessential until the anxiety-inducing event is over.
2. Excessive exercise
Working out excessively without taking in enough calories can cause disruptions. Some signs that you’re overdoing it include extreme or rapid weight loss; decreased physical performance; or forcing yourself to work out through injury, illness or severe weather. Slowing down a bit and gaining a little weight if needed should get things back on track.
3. Hormonal imbalance
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where the female sex hormones are out of balance. PCOS can cause cysts on the ovaries and prevent ovulation from occurring regularly. In addition to missed or irregular periods, PCOS can also contribute to excess hair growth, acne, weight gain and possibly infertility. Your doctor can do a blood test to check your hormone levels if you think PCOS may be the reason for your menstruation problems. If PCOS is the cause, your doctor may recommend birth control to regulate your periods.
4. Low or High Weight
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.
When you put a chemical into your body (including herbal supplements), it can cause a chain reaction that spreads across different systems. Birth control, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and chemotherapy can all cause a missed period. If you recently started a new medication and started skipping periods, tell your doctor to see if it’s a normal side effect. For instance, with some contraceptives including IUDs, the shot, and certain birth control pills, your period may stop altogether.
If you’re breastfeeding, you may not see your period for some time, since prolactin — the hormone responsible for breast milk production — also suppresses ovulation. Many mothers don’t have a period for months (or at all) while breastfeeding.
But a stop in your cycle doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Remember, ovulation occurs before you get your period. It’s possible for you to ovulate and then get pregnant before you ever see your period.
The average age of menopause is 51. Anywhere from two to eight years before that, a woman experiences what’s known as perimenopause, a period when the body gradually produces less estrogen. During this time, it’s not uncommon to experiences changes in your menstrual cycle — periods may come more or less frequently, be shorter or longer, or be lighter or heavier. But you’ll also likely experience hot flashes and night sweats, sleeping difficulties, vaginal dryness and mood swings. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, your doctor can check your hormone levels with a blood test.
When the thyroid, the gland responsible for your body’s metabolism, doesn’t function properly, it can cause abnormal menstrual changes. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause periods to be lighter and less frequent. Additional symptoms include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased sweating and trouble sleeping.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) may also cause periods to be less frequent but heavier. Hypothyroidism can also cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair loss. A blood test can help your doctor determine if you have a thyroid disorder.