Your period’s late, and that can only mean one thing… right? Well no, actually it can mean several things, none of which are anything to do with pregnancy. Everyone knows that a late period can mean pregnancy - it’s a possibility - but it’s not the only answer. Here, we’re shining a light on some other reasons your period may not be as punctual as it used to be.
Hormones change like the weather, and this tends to happen when you go on, come off, or change your birth control. Contraceptive pills (and other types of contraception like implants and injections) contain estrogen and progestin, which stop your ovaries from releasing eggs - these hormones can cause the consistency of your period to change.
In some cases it can take around 6 months for your cycle to go back to its old self, so if you make changes to your birth control, you can expect to see differences in your menstrual cycle and its regularity. This isn’t usually cause for worry, but if you do have any questions or concerns don’t be afraid to ask your GP for reassurance.
We all seriously underestimate the impact stress can have on our bodies. Your body’s stress-response system is rooted in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating your period. When you’re super stressed, your brain instructs the endocrine system to offer up hormones that activate your fight-or-flight mode, suppressing functions that aren’t needed to get away from immediate danger. Your menstrual cycle is one of those functions, so stress can temporarily stop you ovulating, leading to a delayed period.
Physical stress can also play a role in changing your period regularity, as intense physical activity can affect the hormones, and cause you to lose too much body fat too quickly, which can stop ovulation.
Weight can have a lot to do with your period, mainly when you lose or gain a lot in a short space of time. Low body weight (sometimes caused by an eating disorder) can result in late or missed periods, or they may stop completely.
As a general rule, if you weigh 10% below what is considered “normal” range for your height, this can affect your ovulation function. Whatever the reason, discuss your weight loss with your GP so they can recommend the best way to stay healthy and get your cycle back to normal.
Most people begin menopause around age 45-55, but those who develop symptoms from age 40 or earlier are considered to have early perimenopause. As your body prepares to stop periods altogether (menopause), you may start to experience irregular, late and missed periods. Perimenopause can come along as early as 10-15 years before menopause.
You may find that you skip a period one month, and then everything goes back to normal the next. The general rule is that if you have not had a period in a year, you are likely at the menopause stage, but if you need confirmation of this your GP should be able to help determine where you are in the process, and what you can expect going forward.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes the body to produce more of the hormone androgen, and cysts form on the ovaries as a result. These cysts can affect ovulation, and therefore the regularity of the person’s period. PCOS is common, affecting around 1 in 10 UK women, and it’s thought to be responsible for around 1 in 3 cases of stopped periods. If your period is irregular, late or stopped altogether, it’s not out of the question to suspect that PCOS could be to blame.
Your doctor can check this out for you, and if PCOS is the culprit, it’s usually easily managed and not dangerous, but your doctor may prescribe birth control or another type of medication to help regulate your cycle.
Some illnesses can impact your menstrual cycle, like diabetes, celiac disease, thyroid issues, and heart disease. In the case of diabetes, this is because blood sugar is closely linked to hormonal fluctuations, meaning poorly controlled diabetes can, in rare cases, result in irregular periods.
With celiac disease, it’s because this causes inflammation that can sometimes lead to damage in your small intestine. When this happens, your body is unable to absorb key nutrients from food, and this can result in late or missed periods. Also, if you have an overactive or underactive thyroid, this could be the reason. Your thyroid gland is located in your neck, and it produces hormones that regulate many of the body’s functions - your menstrual cycle being one.
If you’re worried about a late period, or you have other symptoms that you think might be related, your doctor can help you find out what’s causing it, and talk to you about treatments for whatever the problem may be. In order to diagnose the issue, your GP may ask about your medical history, your family's medical history, your sexual history, any stress you have been under, any recent changes in your weight, your exercise routine, and more. It’s helpful to keep track of your periods for a couple of months in order to give them as much information about your regular and irregular cycle as possible, but of course if you feel the issue needs to be looked into right away, don’t delay speaking to a medical professional.
Got questions about late or missed periods? We love a period chat, so we do! Shout out in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox. That's one less thing to worry about, with everything that can be going on down there.
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