If you're a menstruating person, then you already know that far too much of life is spent waiting for late a period to show up. It can be one of the most infuriating things, especially if you've already been battling annoying PMS symptoms for a while, like bloating, fatigue, and bizarre food cravings. When your period finally does arrive, though, most of us don't even bother to poke around and find out what the reason for our period being late was. I know I don't — I'm just so happy to finally see red that I celebrate briefly, grab my menstrual cup, and happily move on.
But it might be worth our time to dig a little deeper and understand what's responsible for a late period. In some cases, it might point to a health issue that has been previously overlooked. Other times, it could be something harmless, but knowing about it can help us prepare better so we don't have to play the anxious waiting game again in the future. Bustle spoke with Anna Druet, a Research Scientist at Clue, the free app that allows you to track your menstrual cycle, who says there isn't ever one single answer to why our periods are late. "Every cycle is unique,
and some are more sensitive to changes in things such as sleeping patterns and
eating habits," she says. That's why it always helps to keep track of when your period normally comes and ends, so when something seems off, you can take note of it and see if it's worth looking at with your doctor.
But what's "late," exactly? A run-of-the-mill menstrual cycle generally falls between 21 and 35 days, but it's different for every woman. However, you should have consistency in whatever number of days your cycle is — that's what makes a "normal" period. If your period is five or more days late, something is probably going on, even if it's nothing too serious. Finally, if you're keeping track of your cycle and see that three or more months in a row have been irregular, call up your provider and see if you can schedule an appointment to uncover what's going on.
Here are eight reasons your period might be late that you probably haven't considered.
1. You Recently Took An International Flight
2. You're Extremely Stressed Out
Stress takes a toll on the body, particularly when we experience it in large quantities. According to Dr. Lauren Streicher, associate clinical professor OBGYN at Northwestern University, stress can throw off the healthy connection between our pituitary glands and our ovaries. Dr. Streicher told Buzzfeed that an off-kilter ovulation cycle affects your menstrual cycle as well, likely making your period come a bit later than usual. (Keep in mind, though, that if you're on a hormonal form of birth control, this won't be the case, since the contraception you're taking will guide your menstruation, not your ovulation.)
3. You've Gained Or Lost A Significant Amount Of Weight
4. You're Sick, Or You Were Not Long Ago
Things like the flu or a stomach virus may not hurt you in the long run, but they could have an impact on your next menstrual cycle. Your body simply doesn't function the same way when you're feeling sick. If you're experiencing noticeable changes in your digestion and respiratory health, chances are your reproductive system has taken a hit, too. It's nothing to worry about, really, and you should be back to normal when you start feeling 100 percent again. (Like stress, this only applies to you if you're not taking hormonal birth control.)
5. You've Recently Experienced Significant Changes In Your Life
No matter how minor you think the changes in your life may be, remember that your menstrual cycle doesn't exist exclusively on its own. It's affected by the rest of your body and the myriad of your lifestyle choices, since they all have an effect on the balance your hormones.
6. You've Been Exercising Excessively
7. You Just Changed Or Stopped Using Birth Control
If an imbalance in your hormones causes a late period, you can bet a change in birth control methods can cause a delayed period. When you start a new regimen of contraception, your hormones need time to adjust and introduce your body to a cycle. It's just as probable that you see odd delays in your period when you choose to quit your birth control as well; your body is recalibrating to its own rhythm, so give it some time to fall back into the swing of things.
8. You Have An Illness Or Disorder That Hasn't Been Diagnosed Yet
Having late or irregular periods can be a sign that something more serious may be going on. One potential cause is an overactive thyroid, which causes delays in menstruation, a strangely light flow, or skipped periods altogether. Non-period related symptoms that point to a thyroid issue include diarrhea, muscle weakness, sudden weight loss, and a racing heart. Another reason could be polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance that sends abnormal levels of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone through the body and causes lack of ovulation. Other symptoms are infertility and the growth of hair in odd places, so if you've encountered any of these, speak to your doctor. PCOS may sound highly unpleasant, but there are plenty of ways to treat it safely.
It sounds strange, but chronic disorders like celiac disease could even be causing your late or irregular period. Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical OBGYN professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, told Women's Health that this disease, which causes a severe gluten intolerance, can wreak havoc on your entire system and consequently mess with your menstrual cycle.
The Bottom Line
If any of the above sounds familiar, it's best to schedule a visit with your doctor and see if you should get tested for any hidden illnesses you have yet to uncover. Our bodies are not such simple things to understand, so it could be a collection of things happening internally that are causing your late period. Keep in mind no matter what, though, that three consecutive months of irregular periods probably points to something more than just jetlag. Don't hesitate to speak with your provider — because, as annoying as our periods can be sometimes, they're a pretty good indicator of what's going on with the rest of our health.
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