There is nothing scarier or nerve wracking than experiencing a late period. It doesn’t matter if your period is one day late, or a week late, the sheer fact that your period hasn’t arrived when it was supposed to can be a huge stressor in our already stressful lives.
To the average Jane who is uninformed and may not know anything about menstrual cycles, she may ask herself “Why is my period late? Does this mean that I’m pregnant?”
1. Pregnancy — Being pregnant is the number cause of a late period. Since a majority of women will conceive around the time that they ovulate, which is often fourteen days before the start of their expected period, one of the symptoms of early pregnancy is a missed or late period. (When you’re pregnant, the hormones that support your growing baby switch off your regular menstrual cycles. You will not have a period again until after your baby is born.)
Late Period, but Negative Pregnancy Test
When you have a late period, you need to run and buy a home pregnancy test to confirm that you are not pregnant. Once it’s established that you have a late period but aren’t not pregnant, it’s time to figure out what other reasons may be causing your late period.
Your menstrual cycle can be a delicate flower. There are many factors (like lifestyle habits, medications, stress, and etc.) that can throw the timing of your period out of whack. Late periods can be worrisome, but your doctor won’t diagnose you with amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) until you have missed your period for three months in a row.
If you are a healthy woman who has always been regular, a late period can be a symptom of early pregnancy. You may have a negative pregnancy test, but you could still be pregnant. There is always the chance that you took the test too early – the home pregnancy test that you bought has low sensitivity, and it cannot pick up the traces of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. (hCG is the hormone produced by the placenta during implantation, and it only occurs during pregnancy.) You will need to wait an additional week, and if your period is still late, take another pregnancy test.
(Please visit my store for my picks on home pregnancy tests with the highest sensitivity. Recommended Products for Women Trying to Conceive. According to numerous research studies, the home pregnancy test that’s most sensitive at detecting pregnancy early is the First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test.)
Other Causes of Late Period if You’re Not Pregnant
There are several reasons for why your period is late, but you’re not pregnant. The most common causes for a late period in non-pregnant women include the following:
2. Breastfeeding — New mothers who are breastfeeding often experience late periods, or no periods at all. This is due to the high levels of prolactin in their bodies. Prolactin is a hormone that establishes breast milk production, but it also suppresses the hormones associated with your menstrual cycle. Breastfeeding is associated with late periods.
3. Stress and Anxiety — Another reason for a late period is increased stress and anxiety. When our bodies are stressed, anxious, worried, and just emotionally worn out, they can produce hormones (like cortisol – the “fight or flight” hormone, and adrenaline). Cortisol is produced from progesterone, which is responsible for thickening your endometrium (lining of the uterus) after ovulation to prepare it for implantation. When you are stressed out, this can cause your body to steal progesterone from its normal purpose in your menstrual cycle to create extra levels of cortisol. As a result, this can cause fertility problems and late periods.
If you are very stressed out and have late periods, you need to find relaxation methods to help decrease your stress levels. Yoda, meditation, and other forms of exercise can help de-stress you and make you feel better.
4. Jetlag — If you’ve been traveling and have jetlag, it’s common for you to have late periods. When you travel over different time zones in a short period of time, your body’s natural rhythms (such as sleep and wake) are thrown off. And menstruation can also be messed up for a few days. Your body has to adjust to the new time zone, so you may end up with a late period.
5. Certain Medications — There are a number of medications that can cause late periods. Certain birth control pills, implants, and shots can cause you to have late periods, or no periods at all. Antidepressants, thyroid medication, chemotherapy drugs, and antipsychotics can also cause late periods or menstrual irregularity.
6. Hormonal Imbalance — If you suffer from underlying hormonal imbalances, you may have late periods. Women who are entering perimenopause (“the menopausal transition”) and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome often experience irregular ovulation, late periods, and missed periods.
7. Thyroid Disease — Women who have thyroid problems can experience menstrual abnormalities. They can experience late periods, no periods at all. Women with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can have infrequent (not regular) or light periods. Women with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can have periods that occur too frequently, and bleeding that’s too heavy.
8. Vigorous Exercise — A common cause of late periods is too much exercise. Intense exercise regiments can stress out your reproductive system and lead to late periods and fertility problems. Moderate exercise (30 minutes a day) is often the best way to keep your periods regular, and stay healthy.
9. Poor Eating Habits — When you have poor eating habits, or a diet that’s high in carbohydrates, you can deprive your body of the nutrients that it needs for a healthy menstrual cycle. Poor eating habits and not getting the vitamins that you need can delay your menstrual cycle and lead to late periods. Drinking too much caffeine and excessive alcohol use may also alter your menstrual cycle and cause late periods.
10. Uterine Abnormalities — Sometimes a physical reason is the cause of your late period. Women who suffer from fibroids, polyps, cysts, and endometriosis (a reproductive disorder that occurs when the cells from the lining of your uterus grow in other areas of your body) can suffer from late periods and other menstrual abnormalities.
Should You Worry about Late Periods?
Menstrual cycles are different for everyone. Some women only get their period four times a year. Others have periods twice a month. Some women have heavy periods of vaginal bleeding every two or three months. Other women spot between periods. Most women who have irregular periods just don’t ovulate regularly.
Most irregular and late periods are not dangerous and can be easily treated. In a majority of the cases of late periods, the cause is a hormonal imbalance or ovulation problem that your doctor or healthcare provider can treat. At some point in your life, you will have a late period (or two) and you’re not pregnant.
In many cases, your physician will tell you not to worry about having a late period, or a missed period once or twice a year. You may suffer from random periods of poor eating habits, high levels of stress, emotional problems, vigorous exercise, and etc.
If you are worried about your late period, please contact your gynecologist or healthcare provider and schedule an appointment to see what’s going on and what is causing your late period.
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