11 Everyday Things That Can Affect Your Period, If You're Wondering Why It's Off This Month

If you've missed a period or you've found that it's shorter or longer than normal, it's easy to jump to conclusions. However, an abnormal period is not always a cause for alarm, as a number of everyday things can affect your period — even if it's something you would least expect. Some people may be more sensitive to change than others, but that doesn't automatically mean you have some scary disease or are going to have a baby. Sometimes it's something much smaller.

Women experience between 11 and 13 menstrual cycles per year, but each person is different, according to WebMD. Our environment, the things we ingest, and even travel can affect our cycles, and with so many factors influencing our flow, it's no surprise that sometimes it can get a little off track. Although an irregular period can sometimes signify something bigger such as pregnancy, menopause, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, these aren't always the case, as there are a number of other, less scary explanations for your abnormal period.

Every situation different, but if you experience some differences in your period, consider these 11 everyday things that can affect your menstrual cycle before you find yourself in a frantic panic.

1. Stress

If you've been having a hard time at work in school, all this stress could be the cause of your messed up period. "Stress is the number one contributor to a change in menstrual cycles because when you are stressed, your body shuts down the hormones you need to ovulate," says Dr. Carolyn Alexander, MD, F.A.C.O.G, of Southern California Reproductive Center over email.

2. Other People's Cycles

Ever gotten your period at the same time as your roommate? It's no coincidence. Your period is actually affected by other people's cycles. "Co-workers often end up getting their periods around the same time as one another due to their pheromones, a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species, especially those in close proximity," says Alexander.

3. Too Much Exercise

If you have recently amped up your exercise routine, it may be to blame for your irregular period. "Excessive exercise can lead to skipping periods or light periods because your body needs a certain about of body fat to ovulate," says Alexander.

4. Alcohol

Hitting up happy hour frequently can impact your hormone levels, causing an imbalance, according to Drink Aware. Although there's no specific amount of alcohol that is responsible for changing hormones, even one to five drinks a week can affect your menstrual cycle.

5. Medications

Both prescription and nonprescription medication can affect on your period, even something as simple as Advil or Motrin, according to WebMD. As expected, birth control can have an effect on your period as well as antidepressants.

6. Your Diet

A changing diet can also have an effect on your period. Both eating too much and too little can affect the rest of your body's functions, including your menstrual cycle, so if you've been trying out a new diet or haven't been eating your best, it could result in an irregular period.

7. Certain Beauty Products

"Cosmetics and beauty products can contribute to a change in your period cycle," says Alexander. This is because some products contain chemicals that are considered endocrine disruptors, which means they impact female reproductive health. This includes certain hair dyes, moisturizers, and even shampoo.

8. An Inconsistent Work Schedule

Working longer than normal or at off hours can impact more than just your mood — it can affect your period as well. A study from the journal Epidemiology found that women who worked irregular shifts are more likely to have very short cycles less than 21 days or very long ones 40 days or more than women who have a set schedule.

9. Smoking

If you're a smoker and have been experiencing more painful PMS symptoms, it may be due to the cigarettes. A study from the journal Tobacco Control found that women who smoke are more likely to have painful periods than women who are non-smokers.

10. Your Thyroid Health

"Longer menstrual periods with a heavier flow and more cramps can be a sign of hypothyroidism, where thyroid hormones are in short supply," says Alexander. "Hypothyroidism can also affect a woman’s uterine lining."

11. Sleep

Staying up late or not getting adequate sleep can affect your hormones, which can have an impact on your ovulation and menstruation, according to Health.com. Poor sleep can also impact your melatonin levels, which play a part in regulating your menstrual cycle.

Keeping track of your periods can help you keep track of your health, but if you say any major changes, be sure to consult with your doctor.

Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.

Images: Pixabay (12)