Having a late period can be very distressing, especially if a woman is used to having regular periods or is concerned about an unexpected pregnancy.
However, there are many other reasons why a woman might have a late period, ranging from birth control to stress.
In this article, we look at eight possible reasons for a late period.
Prolonged periods of stress can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, making it longer or shorter, or even causing a missed period.
Some women also report more painful period cramps when experiencing stress.
Avoiding the situations that cause the stress, taking regular exercise, and getting enough sleep can help a person eliminate stress and maintain a regular menstrual cycle.
If a woman is experiencing chronic stress, she might find it beneficial to speak to a doctor or counselor, who can help her identify effective coping mechanisms.
The average onset of menopause is around the age of 52 when a woman has not had a period for at least 12 months.
Many women experience symptoms as early as 10 to 15 years before menopause. This is known as perimenopause and indicates that estrogen levels are beginning to fluctuate.
Irregular estrogen levels can alter a woman’s menstrual cycle, making it common for women in perimenopause to experience irregular or missed periods. Once a woman has gone a full year without a period, she is said to have gone through menopause.
Significant weight loss or intense exercise can cause a woman to miss her period. Being underweight or having a low body-fat ratio can alter reproductive hormone levels, lowering them to levels where ovulation and menstruation do not occur.
A woman who has missed one or several periods after losing a significant amount of weight should consult a doctor or dietician about getting the appropriate amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that her body needs.
Just as weight loss can cause a woman to miss her period, being overweight can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Obesity and missed periods can sometimes signal that a woman has a medical condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), so it is important for a woman to be correctly diagnosed by a doctor.
The doctor may recommend blood tests or an ultrasound to look at the ovaries to make sure that no underlying medical conditions are causing missed periods.
Some types of birth control, particularly hormonal methods, can cause a woman to miss a period.
Typically, hormonal birth control provides a form of estrogen combined with progesterone for a set amount of time, followed by several hormone-free days. The withdrawal of these hormones triggers a period.
Sometimes, these hormones keep the lining of the uterus so thin that there is not enough of the lining to cause a period. This applies to all forms of hormonal birth control, including pills, patches, shots, implants, and rings.
In most cases, this is not harmful, but women should speak to a doctor with any concerns about their birth control method.
Some hormones, such as prolactin or thyroid hormones, can cause a woman to miss her period.
If a hormonal imbalance is responsible for a missed or late period, it can easily be detected with a blood test.
The cause of these hormonal imbalances needs to be investigated by a doctor. Some hormonal imbalances are a common problem that runs in families, or they might be caused by something much more serious, such as a brain tumor.
In many cases, taking medication can help periods return to their normal cycle.
PCOS is one of the most common hormonal disorders among women of childbearing age.
Though the symptoms vary between individual women, those who have PCOS tend to have abnormal hormone levels, which can cause small cysts to develop on the ovaries, acne, excess facial and body hair, male-pattern baldness, and obesity.
Irregular or even absent periods are also a common feature of this condition.
Women who suspect that they have PCOS should visit their doctor for an evaluation. If not properly treated, an absence of periods during childbearing years may cause endometrial cancer.
Women should not rule out pregnancy as a possible reason that their period is late, even if they are using contraception. Women can still get pregnant even if they use birth control correctly.
A sexually active woman with a late period should use a home pregnancy test. It is important to note that there are no forms of birth control that are 100 percent effective. Anyone who is pregnant should seek prenatal healthcare right away.
A woman who has a negative result on the home pregnancy test but whose period still does not start should see a doctor.
If a woman is concerned about missed periods, it can be helpful to keep a written record of her periods, including the start and end dates, and a list of any other associated symptoms.
If a doctor has a written record to refer to, they can make a diagnosis more quickly. Using a simple calendar can work, but there are also apps available for smartphones.
Having regular check-ups with a gynecologist or women’s health specialist can help address many questions about menstrual cycles. Sometimes, a late period is an isolated occurrence and is not a cause for concern.
However, certain symptoms may require medical attention. They include:
- missing several periods in a row
- a positive pregnancy test
- having symptoms of PCOS, as described above
- having gained or lost a lot of weight
- feeling overly stressed