Nobody wants to be late — especially when it comes to your cycle.
For women who experience irregular periods, it’s not uncommon for a period to come late or even skip a month or more. However, if your periods tend to come like clockwork, you probably get a bit worried when one’s late.
What’s a regular period?
For most women of childbearing years, the average time between periods is about 28 days. However, healthy menstrual cycles can range from as soon as 21 days to as long as 35 days.
Women tend to have irregular periods when their cycle first begins, when they’re young, and later in life with the onset of menopause.
What causes a period to be late?
For many women, the first — and most obvious — thought is pregnancy. While taking an over-the-counter pregnancy test can often rule that out (or give you a good reason to immediately text your mother), there can be other things that push back your period.
- Medications – You probably know that oral contraceptives — “the pill” — will affect your cycle, but so can other medications. Steroids, like prednisolone, can cause periods to be irregular (and sometimes heavier). So can weight loss pills, antidepressants, antipsychotics and others. If you’re late, check the side effects of any medications you might be taken or have recently been prescribed.
- Stress – Stress isn’t just in your head — it can have some significant physical manifestations, too, including affecting your cycle. The part of the brain that regulates your cycle, the hypothalamus, is susceptive to stress. Exercise and relaxation techniques can help you get your cycle back in rhythm.
- Body Weight – An unhealthy body weight, either way — either underweight or overweight — puts a physical strain on the body that can impact your period. Women who’ve experienced eating disorders, like bulimia or anorexia, may have late and missed periods. If you’re experiencing an eating disorder, speak to a medical provider and start treatment.
- Thyroid Problems – An overactive or underactive thyroid affects your metabolism — your ability to create and burn energy. There are several very effective medications for treating thyroid problems. Properly treated, your cycle will often return to normal.
- Perimenopause – Menopause isn’t just an issue for older women — some experience the beginnings of menopause — called perimenopause — as young as 40. As egg production winds down, the “period between periods” grows longer.
- Diabetes – Do you have diabetes? Are you sure? Many people with type 2 diabetes don’t even realize they have it. Type 2 diabetes throws off your metabolism, which can lead to longer lengths of time between periods. Your doctor can screen you for type 2 diabetes with a simple blood test. You can get an idea of your risk with an online assessment.
- PCOS – Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, causes your body to produce excessively high levels of male hormones. This causes cysts to form on the ovaries and make ovulation more irregular. PCOS can also make it more difficult to lose weight, cause hair growth on the face and other problems. Losing weight, becoming more physically active and taking medication can help.
When should I worry about a missed period?
If you’re worried about your missed or late period — or think you may have a problem detailed above — make an appointment with your women’s health provider. They can discuss your concerns and recommend screenings or treatments.
However, if you’re experiencing:
- Bleeding after you’ve already entered menopause and have not had a period in a year
- A fever
- Severe pain
You should seek medical care right away. When you call your women’s health provider for an appointment, be sure to tell them about these symptoms.
At Tanner Healthcare for Women, we offer women’s health appointments in Carrollton, Villa Rica and Wedowee. Find more about us online at TannerHealthcareForWomen.org.