Medically reviewed by Dr Kristy June Dinampo.
Your period hasn’t arrived as it should and panic starts to set in!
Now, wait! Before you go into meltdown and start thinking about dirty nappies and sleepless nights, there are other reasons for your period to be late, aside from pregnancy.
Whether you’re on birth control or not, a women’s body is a strange and mystical thing, and occasionally there are blips which are caused by a variety of different reasons.
Now, if there is a very real possibility you could be pregnant, i.e. you’re trying, you missed a pill, or you had unprotected sex, then by all means head to the pharmacy and buy yourself a test. But, if there is no real worry in terms of whether you might be ‘with child’, you should turn your attention to the other reasons why your period might be a little on the lazy side this month.
We know that there are two main times in life when periods can be a little haywire, when they begin (puberty), and when they’re coming to an end (menopause). The time in the middle doesn’t always run according to plan either…
1. Your Body is Syncing With Another Female
We talked about a mysterious and unscientific reason for a late period and this is it. Talk to any woman in their 30’s or 40’s, any lesbian or women who live communally, and they will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there have been times when their menstrual cycle synced up with another woman’s…or even several women’s.
Though it hasn’t been 100% proven it’s a known phenomenon called menstrual synchrony and it happens when we spend a lot of time together, live together or work together with another woman.
If nothing else is going on to cause a missed period then ask your really close female friends and relatives when their period is. You might find that yours is about to sync up.
2. Stressful Times in Life
Think carefully, have you been going through a stressful time? Stress can cause your period to be late because it affects your hormones. There is a part of your brain that is responsible for when your period comes and when it doesn’t, called the hypothalamus. Stress affects this part of the brain and can throw your cycle off kilter.
So, if there’s no way you’re pregnant and your period hasn’t arrived, try and de-stress and see if it makes a difference. You may find that once you relieve the stress and relax, your awaited guest will arrive.
3. Are You Underweight?
Having a low BMI is one of the most common reasons for irregular periods, and can even cause periods to stop altogether. It is considered that if you weigh just 10% under your recommended BMI for your height, ovulation could be affected.
Change your eating habits and gain weight, to the point where your BMI is healthy, and this should return your cycle back to normal. If you’re struggling to put on weight, or you feel you might have an eating disorder, seek medical help and support.
4. Are You Overweight?
Just as being underweight can affect a woman’s cycle, being overweight can affect it too. This is because your weight can affect your hormones and cause imbalances and fluctuations. Changing your eating habits and incorporating regular exercise into your routine is the way forward here, but again, if you feel you need a little help, head to see your doctor.
5. Eating a Keto Diet or Full On Calorie Restriction
Changes in diet can have big effects on our menstrual cycle. When we restrict calories our bodies can go into a nutritional state called ketosis (this is NOT the same as ketoacidosis which is dangerous). The same nutritional state can be achieved through certain very low carb diets including keto or ketogenic diets, atkins or LCHF (low carb, high fat).
When we’re in ketosis for extended periods of time it can disrupt our cycle, at least initially. It’s a very common topic of conversation for women in keto diet circles and as this study backs up their experience.
6. Could You Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
PCOS is becoming a topic that people speak about much more openly, due to the fact that it is becoming very common. Basically, PCOS causes your body to produce more androgen than it should which is a male hormone.
This causes cysts to develop on the ovaries, and it can affect ovulation, and can cause it to stop completely. If you’re noticing your cycle totally out of whack, head to see your doctor, who can explore whether PCOS might be the reason. If so, you might be prescribed the contraceptive pill to help out.
7. Have You Recently Changed Your Birth Control Method?
Provided you followed advice when changing from one form of birth control to another, i.e. you didn’t leave yourself unprotected, then your late period could simply be down to your body trying to figure out what’s going on and right itself.
This will pass once your body gets used to the new method.
For instance, if you’ve recently stopped taking the contraceptive pill and your late period isn’t down to pregnancy, be reassured that your body is adjusting; it can take up to 6 months for your natural cycle to settle back down again.
8. Another Health Issue
Whilst rare, there are some health issues and diseases which can affect a woman’s cycle. For instance, coeliac disease and diabetes are two possibilities here. This is because the blood sugar changes that happen in diabetes are down to hormonal fluctuations, and in terms of coeliac disease, your body isn’t absorbing all the nutrients it needs, which can lead to upset periods.
If you notice your periods are regularly late or you’re missing on a regular basis, go for an MOT check out with your doctor, to help identify any issues that need treating.
9. Early Menopause, or Peri-Menopause
In the years leading up to the menopause proper, it is totally normal for your body to have a few haywire moments. This doesn’t mean that your periods are about to stop altogether and never re-start, but it is common to notice a few blips here and there.
Every woman goes through the menopause at a different age, but it is usually somewhere between 45 to 55 years. Symptoms can however begin as early as 40 years (or even earlier in rare cases), and that is classed as an early peri-menopause, i.e. the time before the menopause begins. This means your egg production is slowing a little, and that means that your cycle will reflect it. Again, if you’re concerned, a visit to your doctor is all that is needed.
10. Thyroid Problems
It is possible for anyone to develop a thyroid problem, at any time in their life, but if you have a parent t has a thyroid issue, you are at higher risk. Basically, an underactive or overactive thyroid gland can cause period problems, because it affects hormone levels. If your doctor identifies a thyroid issue, you’ll probably be put on medication and this will right your cycle at the same time.
The Most Important Thing to Remember? Don’t Worry!
Worrying about your missed or late period will simply make it even more delayed, because that in itself is causing stress! It’s a vicious circle in many ways, but the best advice is to go and see your doctor, to figure out what is causing it and to put your mind at rest.
Obviously, if it is the first time you have experienced an upset in your cycle, and you’re certainly not pregnant, then see what happens in the next one or two cycles first. It is normal for the odd blip to happen, but a prolonged issue does need to be addressed.