Sometimes it feels like our bodies play tricks on us, especially when it comes to our cycles. Periods don’t ever seem to come when we want them to, do they? Whether you’re trying to conceive, trying to avoid pregnancy, or indifferent about the whole thing, when your period doesn’t arrive “on time,” often the first thought that comes to mind is…Am I pregnant?? Why is my period late?
However, there are plenty of other reasons your period could be late. Consider the following possible issues that may or may not be affecting your cycles:
Life is real, and there will be stressors along the way. Because stress can put our bodies into “fight or flight” mode, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to help your body determine what functions are necessary, your menstrual cycle could be put on the back burner. The heart and lungs often receive the most attention during stress (which is why you may feel your heart race and your breathing quicken). This can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle, such as a late period. Even positive life changes like getting married, moving, a new job schedule, and travel have been known to cause delayed periods.
Women who are either underweight or overweight may experience irregular cycles. Again, this has to do with the body’s survival mode. If a woman does not have enough body fat or exercises excessively and doesn’t take in enough calories, her body may not feel like it’s able to carry a baby. The same goes for women who are overweight; the body may even produce too much estrogen, causing a hormonal overload that prevents ovulation and causes the uterine lining to overgrow. When a period eventually arrives, it may be heavier than usual.
If you were sick around the time when ovulation was supposed to occur, your body also may have focused on survival and ignored the menstrual cycle. When the body is busy fighting off infection, normal processes like a period might not happen.
Irregular periods could be a sign of thyroid issues, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), or other chronic illnesses. If you’re experiencing any other symptoms like weight loss or gain, change in energy levels, hair growth, or appetite, talk with your doctor as soon as possible to address any underlying issues.
If you’ve recently gone off hormonal birth control and have missed a period, don’t fret. It often takes a few months for the cycle to return to normal. Likewise, if you’ve recently started hormonal birth control, it can take time for your cycles to become regular. Emergency contraception similarly may affect ovulation, and in turn when your period comes (or doesn’t). Other medications, such as some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and chemotherapy drugs may influence the cycle.
The average age of menopause is 52, but some younger women may have symptoms similar to those occurring during menopause, including irregular cycles, hot flashes, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping, as early as 10 to 15 years before menopause actually happens. This is known as perimenopause. What this means is that the supply of eggs is dwindling down, and causing a decrease in ovulation and irregular periods.
One or several of these could be causing changes in your cycles. A missed period once in a while is normal and not a cause for concern. However, whether you could be pregnant or not, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any bodily changes to ensure that you’re getting the best care possible.