Whether you get your period every 28 days like clockwork or have a flow that prefers to come and go as it pleases, having a period go MIA often feels like cause for alarm. Your mind runs wild with thoughts of pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and watching your baby graduate college - an imaginary life that you’ve created and nurtured and helped grow all because that little bit of blood you were hoping to find this morning didn’t make it’s appearance. Whether pregnancy right now is your goal or you’re holding off temporarily or forever, a fetus in utero is certainly not the only cause of a period gone rogue. Here are 6 reasons, besides being pregnant, that your period could be late.
If you’ve been running yourself ragged at work or dealing with other stressors, especially traumatic ones, your period could be late. This is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. “The hypothalamus is the center of the brain and controls reproduction. It produces a hormone that signals the production of other hormones needed for ovulation,” according to Shady Grove Fertility. So, if you’ve been stressed about something - big or small - do your best to find some time for relaxation. If you’ve experienced a traumatic situation, you should call your doctor and seek a professional opinion.
2. Being sick
The amazing things your body does are all intertwined on some level. When one system isn’t working as well as it should, the others are affected, too. It’s like a game of survival - which bodily process is the most important right now? If you have a common cold, the flu, or some other type of illness, your menstrual cycle is likely the first to be shut down in order to get the rest of your body back up to speed.
3. Weight fluctuations
Say hello to your hypothalamus again (the center in the brain that controls reproductive hormones, like estrogen). When you experience extreme fluctuations in your weight, the amount of estrogen released can impact whether you get your period or not. If you lose a lot of weight quickly, your body won’t produce enough estrogen. Too much weight gain and your body will have too much estrogen. Either way, this could be a reason your period is late.
4. Change in your schedule
Minor changes in your schedule aren’t going to have an impact on your menstrual cycle but intense ones, like switching to the night shift or having jet lag from traveling across the world (you jetsetter, you!), can. The good news is that it’s temporary. Once your body acclimates to your new schedule, your periods should resume as normal. If they don’t, it’s worth calling your doctor about.
5. Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones, of course, play a large role in your menstrual cycle. They determine the heaviness, the length, and even whether your period comes at all. If your hormones are out of whack, you may not menstruate. One cause could be PCOS. Another could be endometriosis. If you suspect this is the case, call your doctor. They’ll be able to put you on a path to help regulate symptoms.
6. Your birth control
Yes, even if you don’t skip the sugar pills, your birth control could be editing your menstrual cycle. Whether you have an IUD, get Depo shots, or are on the pill, the hormonal changes caused by birth control can sometimes eliminate or lessen your period. While this can sometimes be a welcome side effect, it’s good to know that it’s actually the cause of a late or nonexistent period.
If you think you’re pregnant, it’s always a good idea to take a test. Otherwise, talk to your doctor about your late period - they can provide valuable insight and ease your mind.