You are in your mid or late 20s and abruptly, your period stops behaving like clockwork. You know you are not pregnant and nowhere near menopause, so why is your period late?
Reasons for the late or missed periods are many other than pregnancy. The most common causes can range from hormonal imbalances to severe medical conditions.
We break down what you should know about women’s health, how to identify period irregularities, the reasons, and when to see a doctor.
What are irregular periods?
Most women have a menstrual cycle that lasts four to seven days. The period usually occurs every 28 days, but regular menstrual cycles can range from 21 to 35 days.
When the length of your menstrual cycle suddenly falls outside the normal range, you have irregular periods.
There is various reason for the late period, such as changes in hormone levels, certain health conditions, stress, medications, and more.
Examples of irregular periods
Your period is considered regular even if it varies marginally from cycle to cycle. Here are the examples of irregular menstruation:
- Your period is considered regular even if it varies marginally from cycle to cycle. Here are the examples of irregular menstruation
- You have periods fewer than 21 days or more than 35 days apart.
- You missed three or more periods in a row.
- Menstrual flow or bleeding is much heavier or lighter than usual.
- Periods that last longer than seven days.
- The length between cycles varies by more than nine days. For instance, one cycle is 28 days, the next is 37 days, and the next is 29 days.
- Periods are accompanied by severe pain, cramping, nausea, or vomiting.
- Bleeding or spotting occurs between periods after menopause or sexual intercourse.
- Soaking through one or more tampons or sanitary pads in an hour.
Your menstrual cycle may not always be on time, which is okay.
It is normal to have slight differences in cycle length or have a menstrual flow that seems slightly heavier or lighter than your previous one.
Conditions related to irregular periods
A condition where a period is absent for at least three menstrual cycles. It is considered abnormal unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause.
Additionally, you may have amenorrhea if you have not started menstruating by age 15 or 16 or within three years of your breast development.
A condition where your periods occur more than 35 days apart or have six to eight periods a year.
You have painful periods and severe menstrual cramps. However, some discomfort during your cycle is regular.
Abnormal uterine bleeding, bleeding between monthly periods, prolonged bleeding, or a hefty period.
Causes of Irregular, Missed, or Late Periods
There are various reasons why you may have an irregular, missed, or late period, and let us discuss them briefly.
Stress is inevitable daily; however, chronic stress can affect your health. It imbalances your hormones, changes your daily routine and even affects the part of your brain (hypothalamus) responsible for regulating the period.
Over time, stress can lead to various illnesses or sudden weight gain or loss, impacting your cycle.
You can address it yourself or get the help of a medical professional to improve your overall health and well-being.
Low body weight
People with eating disorders may experience irregular periods as they lose weight. Not having enough body fat pauses ovulation.
It is advised to get treatment for your eating disorder and body weight to a point where your body fat is optimal again, and it can return your cycle to normal.
Also, people who participate in extreme exercises like marathons may experience irregular or late periods.
Like how low body weight can cause hormonal changes, living with a high body weight or being obese can also cause irregular periods.
Obesity can cause the body to produce a high amount of estrogen, which can cause irregularities in your cycle and may even stop your periods altogether.
If your doctor has determined that obesity is the cause of your late or missed periods, you must lose weight by focusing on nutrient-dense foods and exercising.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
One of the most common reasons for the late period these days is Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is a condition that causes your body to produce more male hormone androgen.
As a result, cysts form on the ovaries, which hampers the ovulation process leading to irregular periods or stopping it altogether.
Treatment for PCOS focuses on relieving symptoms. Your physician may prescribe birth control or another medication to help regulate your cycle.
Chronic diseases like diabetes and celiac disease can also affect your menstrual cycle.
Changes in blood sugar are linked to hormonal changes, so even though it’s rare, unmanaged diabetes could cause irregular periods.
Celiac disease causes inflammation that can damage your small intestine, which may prevent your body from absorbing essential nutrients and cause irregular or missed periods.
Other chronic conditions that may lead to cycle irregularities are congenital adrenal hyperplasia and asherman’s syndrome.
An overactive or underactive thyroid gland is also a reason for the late or missed period.
The thyroid regulates your body’s metabolism so that hormone levels can also be affected. You can treat thyroid issues with medication easily. After the treatment, your period will likely return to a regular cycle.
Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI)
For most women menopause begins between the ages of 45 to 55.
Women who develop symptoms around age 40 or earlier may be experiencing premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or early natural menopause.
This condition can arise from the surgical removal of the ovaries or other causes, including genetic disorders and autoimmune diseases.
Contact your doctor if you are experiencing missed periods and are 40 years old or younger.
When to see your doctor
If your periods seem irregular, or you have missed a period but know you are not pregnant, it is better to talk to your gynae.
A gynecologist can determine the cause of your irregular periods and help develop the best treatment plan.
Also, please keep a record of changes in your cycle, as it helps the doctor make a diagnosis.
If you experience any of the below symptoms, it is time to visit your doctor:
- unusually heavy bleeding
- no periods for 90 days
- fever and severe pain during periods
- nausea and vomiting
- bleeding that lasts longer than seven days
- Bleeding between period cycles
- Bleeding after you have entered menopause and have not had periods for at least a year
Like every woman is different, every menstrual cycle is different too. While 28 days is the generalized cycle length, cycles can range from 28 to 40 days.
Occasional irregular periods can happen for various reasons, from chronic stress to weight loss or weight gain to stopping or starting birth control.
However, if you frequently experience late periods, it is better to talk to your gynecologist. The quicker they diagnose, the faster you can work on regulating your cycle again.
One of the most critical aspects of women’s health is reproductive health. Each month your body goes through a complete hormone cycle, so when something is unbalanced, it affects your entire life.
So, it is better to be proactive about your health and visit the doctor regularly to rule out any issues.