Why Is My Period Late? 10 Reasons Other than Pregnancy

Why is my period late? During the coronavirus epidemic, when you are already feeling so stressed out, you do not want another worry on your head. Having a delayed period can be stressful, especially if you are concerned about getting pregnant.

However, there can be several other reasons like thyroid issues, weight issues, PCOD, and even stress that can lead to a late period. In this article, you will learn some of the most common reasons why your period could be late besides pregnancy.

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What is irregular or late period?

Your period is considered delayed if it hasn’t started five or more days after you expected it to begin. Women usually have their periods every 28 days. However, it is common for some women to have slightly shorter or longer menstrual cycles (21 to 40 days). If your period comes later than your regular cycle, it is considered late.

It is normal for your periods to be irregular when you start getting your period during puberty. Your periods also become irregular when your body goes through a transition during menopause.  If you don’t fall into either of these categories, you must check with your doctor to find the best solution for your late or irregular periods.

Causes of late period

1. Stress

Prolonged stress can affect your hormonal balance, leading to a delayed or missed period. The hypothalamus in our brain stimulates the hormone production of luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. When stress affects the hypothalamus, you may end up not ovulating, and you may also miss your period.  Some women also experience painful period cramps and a heavier period when they are stressed.

Avoid situations that may lead to stress. Practice relaxation techniques, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

2. Excessive weight loss

If you have lost a lot of weight recently, you could experience late periods. When you undergo extreme weight loss or are underweight, it stresses the hypothalamus responsible for regulating your period. In some cases, extremely underweight women don’t ovulate at all. When your body mass index (BMI) is less than 18.5, your GP may refer you to a dietician.  Your dietician will then advise you on how to regain weight safely.

3. Too much exercise

Intense physical activity can stress your body, and this can affect your hormones as well. Exercise is right for you, but not if you are overdoing it. Marathon runners, endurance trainers, gymnasts, professional athletes, and ballet dancers often suffer from amenorrhea (missed period).

You must consult a doctor that specializes in sports medicine. He will advise you on how to maintain your performance without disrupting your periods.

4. Weight gain

Gaining a lot of weight in a short period can cause excessive production of estrogen. Weight gain may cause you to not ovulate for months, which can lead to the overgrowth of the endometrial lining. This results in irregular or heavy periods.

If your BMI is more than 30, your GP will refer you to a dietician. A healthy diet and good exercise plan can help you to shed the extra pounds and bring your periods back to normal.

5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal condition that women develop during their child-bearing years (1). Women with PCOS have a higher than a healthy amount of male hormones. The hormonal imbalance leads to the development of cysts in the ovaries, which makes ovulation irregular. This hormonal imbalance can also make your periods irregular or more challenging to predict. Some other symptoms of PCOS include excess facial or body hair, obesity, and male pattern baldness.

If you suspect you have PCOS, you must visit your doctor for an evaluation. Changes in diet and exercise can help with the treatment. Birth control pills and diabetes drugs can also help with the treatment.

6. Birth control

All forms of birth control that release hormones can affect the timing and regularity of your period. These include hormonal IUD, shot, pill, patch, or ring. Birth control pills contain progesterone and estrogen, which can prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. Once you stop taking the pill, it can take up to three months for your periods to become regular.

7. Thyroid dysfunction

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located at the base of your neck. It plays a significant role in metabolism, growth, and development, and it interacts with various systems in our body to keep it running smoothly (2). Any type of thyroid imbalance, whether hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, can have an impact on your periods. Thyroid dysfunction can be treated with medication, after which your periods can come back to normal.

8. Early perimenopause

The average onset of menopause is around 51 in the US. Menopause is diagnosed when you have gone 12 months without a menstrual period.

Perimenopause begins several years before menopause. During this period, your ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s but can start in her 30s or even earlier. Low estrogen levels can alter women’s menstrual cycle, and women may experience a late or missed period.

9. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when you eat gluten. Studies show that women with celiac disease skip periods quite frequently. Celiac disease can cause other problems related to menstruation like infrequent or light periods or strange spotting between periods (3). Getting a proper diagnosis and eating a gluten-free diet can solve this problem.

10. Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the woman’s reproductive organs like uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes that is spread by sexual contact. This infection develops when chlamydia or gonorrhea is left untreated. It can disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause irregular periods. Some other symptoms of PID include vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. If you suspect PID, you must visit your doctor immediately.

When should you see your doctor for late or irregular periods?

Unless you are pregnant, the chances are that your period will return to normal next month. However, missed or delayed periods can also be a symptom of a medical problem. A gynecologist will determine the cause of your irregular periods and the right course of action. Consult with your gynecologist if –

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  • You haven’t had your period for 90 days.
  • Your periods stop before you reach 45
  • You still have periods after 55
  • You have a period more frequently than every 21 days
  • You have a period less regularly than every 35 days
  • Your period lasts longer than a week
  • Your periods suddenly become very heavy
  • You bleed between periods or after sex
  • Your periods are painful.

Final thoughts

Pregnancy is not the only reason why you may miss a period. Hormonal imbalances and specific medical conditions can cause irregular periods. In some cases, stress, weight issues, excessive exercise, and poor diet can also lead to missed or late periods. These can be easily rectified by improving your diet and lifestyle.

In some other cases, a delayed period may indicate PCOS, thyroid dysfunction, celiac disease, early perimenopause, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Certain forms of birth control, like pills, hormonal IUD, shot, pill, patch, or ring, can also affect your period’s timing. In these cases, a gynecologist will be able to determine the cause of your irregular periods and the right course of action.

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