Stress and your period

A late period is stressful—it’s often a trigger for a flood of emotions (whether you’re wishing you’re pregnant or hoping you’re not). But can stress cause a late period? You bet.

There are many reasons why you might have a late period—health issues like PCOS, low body weight, thyroid issues, irregular hormone levels, and chronic illness can delay or prevent periods from arriving regularly—but the wrench in your regular schedule is always inconvenient. How are you meant to plan around your cramps, bloating, and PMS? No one likes to get caught without a cup, a tampon, or a pad.

Stress can also cause problems with your menstrual cycle (or make an already irregular period worse). We asked the experts what you need to know to get back on track.

Contents

How Can Stress Affect Your Period?

Stress affects our bodies in the same way it did our distant ancestors who frequently had to escape life-threatening situations, says Stephanie McClellan, M.D., an ob-gyn and chief medical officer at Tia.Stress puts our bodies on “high alert,” disrupting everything from digestion to our normal experience of pain.

The reasons behind these systemic shifts are prehistoric. “When the stress pathway is activated, there are very specific commands coordinated by the brain, stress hormones, and the immune system intended to improve the chances of survival,” explains Dr. McClellan.

That might seem irrelevant to the modern woman but it’s actually super important for answering the question can stress cause a late period. Among the systems to get temporarily shut down? Your reproductive system. Stress causes a surge in cortisol, which sets off a chain reaction in your body: Contact between the brain and ovaries is disrupted, and your period is late or might even disappear altogether. “High cortisol surges can make the uterine lining less receptive to the healthy implantation of the fertilized egg,” says Dr. McClellan, adding that this can also influence your fertility.

You may also notice period cramps feel worse when you’re stressed. “Pain perception is often increased when one is stressed, anxious, or depressed, so period cramps that are usually manageable may feel worse,” says Jennifer Braverman, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s department of obstetrics and gynecology division of maternal-fetal medicine. “Stress also makes it harder to cope with the mood changes many women feel around their periods.”

How to Get Your Menstrual Cycle Back on Track

If you’re experiencing late or missing periods, it’s important to figure out the root cause of the situation.

“There can be many causes of late or irregular periods, including anovulation, in which a woman doesn’t produce an egg each month, or oligoovulation, in which a woman produces an egg some months and not others,” says Dr. Braverman. Benign brain tumors (called prolactinomas), obesity (due to the production of estrogen), and being underweight or exercising too much can also affect your cycle in this way.

If chronic stress is behind your temperamental periods, the fix is simple: Work on minimizing your stress.

This can of course be easier said than done, but Dr. Braverman recommends moderate exercise, warm baths or showers, and plenty of rest. You can also try things like meditation, eating foods thought to help lower cortisol, and practicing yoga to help get your period back on schedule. And that’s one less thing to be stressed about.

Everyone experiences stress, and for many it’s not an enjoyable experience. It isn’t inherently bad, although research suggests that depending on the type of stressor (i.e. the reason for stress) and the timing of the stressor, it can cause changes to a person’s menstrual cycle.

What is stress?

Stress is a normal psychological and physiological reaction to changes in someone’s environment, which could be emotional, physical, social or cultural (1,2).

Activities that intentionally promote acute levels of stress, such as exercise and willful participation in social activities, can actually have long term positive effects on a person’s health (3–6).

When most people talk about stress, however, they are usually referring to chronic and/or negative forms of stress, such as having too many demands at school/work or the death of a loved one (1,7). People experiencing chronic stress may feel that they are unable to handle daily life tasks, have limited-to-no control over the direction of their life or more easily become angry or irritated (1). This type of chronic stress can negatively affect a person’s short-term and long-term health (7–9).

Biological relationship between stress and the reproductive system

Stress activates a hormonal pathway in the body called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (10). Activation of HPA axis is associated with increased levels of cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) (2, 10, 11). The HPA axis, cortisol, and CRH help control stress response in the body. CRH and cortisol release can suppress normal levels of reproductive hormones, potentially leading to abnormal ovulation, anovulation (i.e. no ovulation), or amenorrhea (i.e. absence of menstruation) (10–12). Furthermore, abnormal levels of CRH in reproductive tissue have been associated with negative pregnancy outcomes, such as pre-term birth (10).

Research on stress and the menstrual cycle

Stress from extreme or traumatic events has been linked to dramatic changes in normal menstruation. War, separation from family and famine have been anecdotally linked to amenorrhea in physician and epidemiological reports (13–15). Although these studies and case reports are informative, they are not scientifically rigorous and cannot rule out other associated factors, such as malnutrition, that occur during war or other tragic events. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse have been associated with the development of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (16) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) (17). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has also been associated with PMDD (18).

Daily life stress may also affect the length of your cycle.

One study of stress in female nurses found associations between high stress and anovulation as well as high stress and longer cycles (19), though these findings may be in part due to rotating shift work (working nights), which is common for nurses (20). Conversely, high stress but low control jobs, where the person has little control over their work tasks and other key decisions, have been associated with shorter cycles (21). These studies may have found different results because the stress of study participants may not have been equal. Differences in the level and length of stress exposure could cause people’s bodies to respond in different ways. For example, in one study, peri-menopausal (approaching menopause) people with high stress were no more likely to have altered cycles than low stress people after one year; however, high stress was linked to shorter menstrual cycles after two years (22), indicating that symptoms may not present immediately.

Menstrual pain has also been associated with stress.

Dysmenorrhea (i.e. painful menstruation) has been linked to working in jobs that are low control, are unsecure and have low coworker support (23). Stress from the preceding month may also affect the frequency of dysmenorrhea (24), so someone might not experience painful menstruation as a result of stress until their period the following month. People with a history of dysmenorrhea may be more likely to experience this effect (24). Similarly, people experiencing stress earlier in their cycle were more likely to report severe symptoms during the time leading up to and during menstruation (25).

As mentioned, the different effects of stress may be, in part, due to timing. Higher reported stress during the follicular phase (i.e. from the first day of menstruation until ovulation) has been strongly associated with changes in normal reproductive function (24, 26). In one recent study, those reporting pre-ovulatory stress (during the follicular phase) were less likely to become pregnant as compared to those not reporting stress during the same time (26). This suggests that stress may cause the body to delay or entirely suppress ovulation. This idea is supported by research examining menstrual cycle variation. The length of the luteal phase (i.e. post-ovulation until menstruation) tends to be consistent across and within women (27), whereas the length of the follicular phase has a stronger association with the variation in the total length of the entire menstrual cycle (28). This means that the follicular phase, as opposed to the luteal phase, is more likely to change in length. Therefore, the effects of stress on ovulation may be one of the biggest factors related to changes in cycle length due to stress, though it is unclear how this would be related to other stress-related changes in the menstrual cycle, such as painful menstruation.

Stress management

Some stress in life is unavoidable, but you can learn to manage your stress. Exercising, getting restful sleep, having a healthy diet, confiding in friends and family and having healthy social activities can potentially reduce the effects of stress on your health (3–6, 29). Stress that causes long-term changes in your mood or sleep or that causes chronic physical pain may be serious. If you are experiencing high levels of chronic stress, you may want to consider speaking to your healthcare provider.

Clue can help you track your stress, energy, sleep, and exercise in the Mental, Energy, Sleep, and Exercise sections.

Not sure whether stress is affecting your cycle? The best way to take care of yourself is to know your body.

© iStock/JulyProkopiv

Modern life is full of stressful situations and triggers that can negatively affect the mood of women, here we explore the 5 factors affecting menstrual cycle.

Once a month, most women have to juggle all of the emotions that invade their minds and hearts in the lead up to menstrual periods. How stress affects menstruation is quite difficult to assess. However, untreated stress, combined with increased hormone levels, can wreak havoc in daily lives, as well as cause women to suffer from other mental health issues like insomnia, loss of appetite and anxiety. In fact, chronic stress and anxiety are so closely related that it is easy to mistake temporary stress for a chronic anxiety disorder. Here Madeleine Taylor explores the many stressful situations and factors affecting menstrual cycle.

Factors affecting menstrual cycle

Having a regular cycle when it comes to menstruation is really important to women’s health. Women tend to plan important events like holidays, birth control (pregnancy), and even important work meetings around their monthly period.

So, when a woman is just about to board the plane for her yearly dream vacation in the Bahamas, the last thing she needs is for her period to turn up. Yet it happens far more often than initially thought, which means that managing stress and anxiety can usually rectify an irregular cycle.

Here are the five primary ways that stressful situations affect the menstrual cycle and, what can be done about it.

The delay in ovulation

When you are stressed in the lead up to ovulation, it makes is really difficult for certain hormones to be triggered and released on schedule. This will result in delayed ovulation, meaning your period will not be on time or predictable.

The main problem with delayed ovulation is that it puts a huge spanner in the works when it comes to planning events around your period. In addition, this can lead to further stress, as you will probably start worrying that something is wrong and before you know it, you have ended up in a vicious cycle of anxiety.

Delayed ovulation also poses a significant challenge to women who are planning to get pregnant, especially if they have struggled with fertility issues in the past.

A longer cycle

No one wants their period to last longer than is absolutely necessary, but this is exactly what can happen as a side effect of stress. When you are going through delayed ovulation, you will unfortunately likely have to endure a longer cycle than usual, and you could also experience a heavier flow.

The onset of your next cycle would also be late, so you would essentially be left guessing as to how long your period will last and when it will actually turn up. In today’s uncertain times, we certainly don’t need to be adding more unpredictable and stressful events into our lives!

Your period stops entirely

Stress situations can have a powerful effect on the menstrual cycle including the amount of bleeding, the level of cramps, and, in some cases, your period could stop altogether.

This is more common if you are dealing with a reduced appetite as a result of stress or anxiety, as being underweight can also cause your period to stop.

You will not ovulate

While you will still bleed each month, you won’t actually be ovulated. This can be a huge issue if you are trying to conceive, as it may look like you have your period as usual, yet you will not be able to get pregnant.

One of the most reliable ways to figure out, whether you are ovulating or not, is to chart your cervical mucus to see if it peaks or not; if it doesn’t, then you might not be ovulating and you should consult a physician to rectify the situation and obtain professional advice.

Your PMS gets worse

Throwing stress and anxiety into the mix of fluctuating hormones and mood swings isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Many women struggle with PMS and sometimes it gets so bad that it can result in heavy menstrual bleeding, anxiety attacks, and bouts of depression.

If you have noticed that your PMS has got a lot worse recently, then you need to take a serious look at the stress levels and triggers in your life in order to be able to restore normality.

How to manage stressful situations the natural way

Aside from affecting our period, stress can greatly affect many other aspects of our lives in a negative way. This is why it is of utmost importance to take steps to ensure that you have your stress under control. Regardless of how old you are, you should never underestimate the fact that stress is usually the root cause of a wide range of serious medical conditions, which include:

  • Hypertension;
  • Increased risk of stroke;
  • Increased risk of heart attack;
  • Depression; and
  • Insomnia.

There are also many more issues that are not always so apparent.

Thankfully, you are not alone and many women around the world have had great success managing and eliminating stress from their lives by using the following tool to help them live a more harmonious life.

CBD oil for stress

Based on recent news, it seems that this natural tincture is capable of treating virtually any illness on the planet. And while there will be some exaggerations and also scepticism with regards to its efficacy, many people have been able to significantly reduce stress and anxiety via the use of cannabis oil.

It is now entirely legal for medical use across the U.S., although it must only contain very low levels of THC (the compound of cannabis that makes you high) in certain states.

CBD Oil does not give psychoactive effects

When you use CBD oil for therapeutic purposes, the cannabinoids present will cancel out the psychoactive effects.

So, essentially you can enjoy all of the healing properties of the marijuana plant, without the disruption of being stoned and feeling as though you just want to stare at the ceiling all day.

Not only does nature’s miracle herb manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety for you, but it also works to fix other issues like insomnia and period pain. Certain strains will even help you to control the monthly munchies that many women seem to get during the time of their period.

Final thoughts

CBD oil is an incredibly potent remedy for stress, but you have to form a partnership with it, in order to experience the maximum benefits. What I mean is that a degree of self-healing will also come from your own willpower and, of course, your lifestyle.

If you are dealing with your stress by downing three bottles of wine every night before chowing down on a KFC, then you are subconsciously counteracting anything positive that you are doing for your body. Any medicine—be it pharmaceutical or natural—should be complemented with an active, healthy lifestyle.

Above all, however, if you are concerned about your health in any way, you should visit your doctor.

Madeleine Taylor
SundayScaries

Stress causes late periods by the way it disrupts your hormonal patterns. Your hormones need to meet certain levels and follow certain patterns in order to trigger both ovulation and your period. If stress gets in the way this can disrupt the cycle. Stress causes a rise in stress hormones — specifically cortisol — which affect the production and interaction of other hormones.

Your hormonal cycle is a chain reaction. If one stage of your cycle does not occur as it should, the following stages will not receive the correct triggers. When your ovary releases an egg, the ruptured egg sack produces progesterone. The increase of progesterone in your body encourages the buildup and eventual release of the lining of your uterus, aka your period.

When cortisol is elevated, this gets majorly interrupted. Here are the 5 specific ways stress can affect your period:

  1. Disrupts Insulin – Stress raises cortisol levels and disrupts your blood sugar which, in turn, disrupts your ovulation and period.
  2. Lowers Progesterone – The stress hormone cortisol blocks progesterone production and lowers progesterone levels. Your body actually uses your progesterone to make more cortisol to react and respond to the stress. This not only messes with your cycle, but it can make it difficult for you to conceive.
  3. Delays Ovulation – If you experience stress around the time you typically ovulate, the increased levels of cortisol can delay or even prevent ovulation. This one makes sense evolutionarily – a pregnancy on top of a stressful period in a person’s life is not ideal. Your body in a way is trying to keep your energy available to address the stress before conception takes place.
  4. Changes timing of your Period – Stress post-ovulation can cause a hormonal imbalance too. If you do ovulate and stress comes later in your cycle, it can potentially cause spotting, an early period, or a period that looks or feels different than your norm (in consistency, color, length, or symptoms like cramping).
  5. Period can go missing – Even if you do eventually bleed, a late period may not be considered a period at all – it’s more of a breakthrough bleed. You didn’t ovulate, so it’s not a physiological period – however, your uterus still needs to shed the lining it has built up.

How to Outsmart Stress And Finally Fix Your Hormones

Your body is brilliant and your late period isn’t just a nuisance you can ignore; it’s your body’s way of telling you that it’s under constant or chronic levels of stress and unable to operate optimally. In order to perform all the countless functions it needs to do to keep you alive, it shuts down ovulation in an effort to conserve resources and energy. If you’re not trying to conceive, maybe you think this lack of ovulation is no big deal. But think again: when your body doesn’t ovulate, it sets the stage for more hormonal symptoms and period problems – everything from PMS, to acne, to cramps. A late period is more than just an inconvenience — it’s a precursor to a long list of other serious health issues.

I’m an advocate for listening to your body and a late period is your body saying something loud and clear, but what exactly is your body trying to tell you? A stressed out cycle is a message. It’s a call-to-action from your body.

Once you period is late, there’s not much you can do to make your period come when you want during that cycle. But you can avoid future late periods by taking action today. How? Simple. Your body isn’t just brilliant; it’s resilient. By nourishing it with the proper micronutrients and lifestyle support, you can absolutely heal your hormones, eliminate your symptoms, and get your period back on track.

When you eat in a hormonally-supportive way, you soothe and support your adrenal glands, which turns the dial down on cortisol production and breaks the stress cycle. Not to mention that eating nutrient-dense foods at the right times of your cycle will boost your metabolism, digestion, and help you lose weight with blood sugar balance, regulate your cycles, detoxify your system, and increase your energy.

If you’re ready for the type of in-depth guidance necessary to kick stress to the curb and reclaim your hormonal health, it’s time to sign up for MonthlyFLO, a three-month program that will show you how to tap into your body’s unique rhythm, feed yourself at all four phases for optimal hormonal balance, and get more done with less effort. Get started now and stop letting all those daily stressors mess with your beautiful body.

Love and ovaries,
Alisa

Monthly FLO: The Cycle Syncing System™

Put your period symptoms into remission. Discover how to live in your FLO and get it all done with embodied time management.

MonthlyFLO is the first-ever woman-centric health system that syncs with your unique rhythm. It gives you the foundation for solving any hormonal issues you may have over your lifetime.

Using the principles of functional nutrition, MonthlyFLO is a specially-sequenced food therapy program that recalibrates your endocrine function. Over three months, you will be guided step-by-step to make simple, cumulative food and lifestyle changes that balance your hormones naturally.

Can Stress Make Your Period Late?

By Margaret Wack

Updated September 29, 2019

Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault

Most people who menstruate have experienced a missed or delayed period. If you’re also sexually active, it can be an incredibly stressful experience, no matter how many negative pregnancy tests you take. A late period can have many causes and isn’t necessarily a sign that anything’s wrong. While you should always check with a medical professional to rule out pregnancy or illness, late periods can be caused by a variety of common occurrences, and often isn’t anything to worry about.

Source: pexels.com

Stress And Your Cycle

While they might seem initially unrelated, stress can have a significant effect on your menstrual cycle. Although stress is often a normal part of everyday life, excessive stress, particularly after significant negative life events like a breakup, death in the family, or personal or professional disappointment, can wreak havoc on the normal rhythm of ovulation and menstruation.

While there is a correlation between stress and late or missed periods, not much is known about the relationship between stress and the menstrual cycle. Stress may affect reproductive hormones, messing with the timing of your period or even temporarily stopping it altogether. Stress can also cause irregular periods, spotting, more severe cramping, and other problems.

Stress And Late Periods

A normal menstrual cycle ranges somewhere between four and five weeks, although cycles can be longer or shorter depending on the individual. Even more important in determining a healthy cycle than period length is period regularity: as long as you have regular, consistent cycles, it’s a good sign of a healthy reproductive system as well as general physical health.

When you’re stressed out, your menstrual cycle can be disrupted or delayed, leading to a late or nonexistent period. Both chronic and short-term stress can affect your cycle, particularly if the stress is severe enough to cause other symptoms, like changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Stress can even cause amenorrhea, the technical term for one or more missed periods in a row.

A late or missed period can compound the stress you’re already feeling, further delaying your cycle and exacerbating irregularities in your cycle. While a missed period due to stress is relatively common, it can still be scary to experience, especially when you’re worried about possible pregnancy or other health issues.

If you’re not sure what’s caused your period to be late, it’s always a good idea to rule out pregnancy and to see a doctor for a possible diagnosis. But if you know you’ve been particularly stressed out lately, there’s a good chance that stress is the culprit behind your period’s delay!

Stress And Spotting

In addition to period delays, stress is also often the culprit behind spotting and irregular bleeding throughout your cycle. Spotting is light, unpredictable bleeding that isn’t as heavy as a regular period. Stress may cause you to spot instead of a typical period, or can induce spotting when you aren’t expecting a period at all. Just like with irregular periods, you should always check with a doctor to make sure that spotting isn’t a sign of anything more serious, and to rule out other possible causes.

Stress And Period Pain

When you do have your period, stress can also contribute to increased period pain. Since physical soreness and cramping is a common side effect of stress and anxiety, getting your period when you’re stressed out can be a double whammy in terms of unpleasant physical side effects. Stress can make cramps even worse than usual, and can also contribute to the lethargy and fatigue that can accompany menstruation.

Source: pexels.com

If you’re suffering from severe cramps, there are a variety of home remedies available for both stress and period pain. Hot water bottles, microwavable heating pads, and electric blankets can all provide physical relief for intense pain. The heat helps relax uterine muscles and soothe the area. Counterintuitively, exercise can also help both periods and stress. Exercise is a great way to combat period pain and anxiety and releases a wealth of beneficial hormones into the body. Over the counter pain, meds can also provide relief, in addition to beneficial herbs and spices like tea, ginger, and turmeric.

Other Reasons For A Missed Or Delayed Period

While stress can definitely be the culprit behind missed periods, there are also a variety of other reasons why your cycle could be delayed. If you’re not sure why your menstrual cycle is irregular, it’s always a good idea to check in with a medical professional to make sure that nothing more serious is going on.

Pregnancy

If you’ve missed a period, you should always double check to be absolutely certain that you’re not pregnant. Even if you’ve practiced safe sex, if you’re sexually active there’s always a small chance that you could become pregnant. Learning that you’re expecting early in the pregnancy gives you more time to consider your next steps and decide what solution works best for you, whether that means carrying a baby to term or seeking help to safely end the pregnancy.

Weight Changes

Source: pexels.com

In addition to stress, recent weight changes can also be a common cause of an irregular menstrual cycle or missed period. Weight fluctuations can affect hormonal levels, resulting in delayed menstruation or amenorrhea. If you’re extremely underweight or overweight, this can also negatively affect your cycle. To help stabilize your cycle and experience regular periods, try to maintain a healthy weight, and avoid abrupt weight loss or gain. If you’re struggling with weight or eating disorders, consider seeking the help of a doctor or nutritionist to make sure that you’re at a healthy weight for you.

Exercise

Excessive exercise is another common cause of a late or missed period. If you exercise daily or complete several intense workouts in a row, your period can be delayed, or even stop altogether. While exercise is a great treatment for both period pain and mental health issues, overdoing exercise can have a negative effect on your health in general, and your period in particular.

Birth Control

Birth control can also affect your period or even stop it completely. If you’ve recently switched birth control methods, your period can be delayed for up to a few months. Certain types of birth control can also make your period infrequent, light, or even nonexistent, including some varieties of the birth control pills and the hormonal IUD.

How To Prevent Stress-Related Miss Periods

If you’re worried that stress is affecting your period, there are a variety of methods for reducing stress and increasing period regularity. As always, if you’re concerned about your cycle or your overall mental health, it’s always a good idea to check in with a doctor to discuss treatment options and make sure that nothing more serious is wrong.

Treating Stress

If your period has been delayed by stress, it’s a good idea to get to the source of the issue by reducing stress. Exercise, when performed in moderation, can be a great way of improving physical fitness, reducing stress, and regulating your menstrual cycle. Mindfulness and meditation can also be a great, natural way to improve mental health and reduce stress and anxiety.

Source: pexels.com

For people who are stressed out and overwhelmed by life events and struggles at work or in personal relationships, it can be helpful to develop a routine and form positive habits that help manage mental health issues. Healthy lifestyle changes like nutritious food, physical activity, positive social interactions, and fulfilling hobbies and activities can all help mitigate the effects of stress and get your cycle back on track.

If you’re seriously struggling with mental health, consider seeking help in the form of therapy or medication. For moderate to severe anxiety, these treatments can drastically improve stress levels and help improve overall health. Doctors can prescribe medication to treat anxiety, and therapists can help you get to the root of underlying mental and emotional issues that may be contributing to anxiety and stress.

Tracking Your Period

Since missed periods can be stressful, as well as a sign of potentially significant underlying issues, it’s always a good idea to keep track of your period as well as any accompanying symptoms. There are a variety of websites and apps that make period tracking a breeze, and can also record sexual activity, spotting, ovulation, and other events related to your menstrual cycle. If you’re old school, you can just keep track of it in a notebook or on your calendar. Tracking your period can help you notice any changes or irregularities in your cycle, and can make you more familiar with yourself and your body.

Are you experiencing a delayed period due to stress and anxiety? If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, there are a variety of other options that can help reduce stress and promote happiness and wellbeing. Whether you’re looking for professional counseling or just need someone to talk to, BetterHelp offers a diverse selection of online therapy services that can provide you the help you need to manage your mental health. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Stress and Your Menstrual Period: A Cycle That You Can Break

(If you’ve been dealing with amenorrhea for a few months, however, your doctor may ask about your health history and perform various tests, including checking hormone levels. Pregnancy, cysts, tumors, hormone deficiencies, and factors other than stress can cause more than one missed period.)

How Stress May Affect Menstruation

Not much is known about the relationship between stress and periods. However, stress certainly plays a role in suppressing the functioning of the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland — the body’s master gland — which, in turn, controls the thyroid and adrenal glands and the ovaries; they all work together to manage hormones.

Ovarian dysfunction may lead to problems with estrogen production, ovulation, or other reproductive processes. Estrogen is an important hormone that helps build the uterine lining and prepares the body for pregnancy. If the ovaries aren’t working properly, side effects may involve the menstrual cycle, including missed periods or irregular periods.

Getting Back on Track

Because stress can affect the part of the brain responsible for producing hormones, it can throw hormonal levels out of whack, which can lead to changes in the frequency and duration of your menstrual period.

Reducing your level of stress or finding effective coping mechanisms may help your body revert to a normal menstrual period. Talking with a therapist or possibly taking anti-anxiety medication can lower stress and help you manage stress symptoms, eventually allowing your system to return to regularity.

It’s not possible to completely eliminate stress from your everyday life, nor would you want to. Finding healthy methods to cope with excessive stress is the best way to not let it wreak havoc on your body’s natural functioning.

Find more information in the Everyday Health PMS Center.

7 Reasons Your Period Could Be Late Other Than Pregnancy.

By: Emma Sarran Webster, Allure Magazine

“I’m late.” These two words have a pretty powerful connotation. Say them to any fellow adult with the proper gravitas, and the person you’re talking to may assume you’re pregnant. Late periods and pregnancy, in many people’s minds, are inherently connected. One must mean the other, right? Wrong.

True, a late period can be an indicator that you’re pregnant, but it can also be attributed to many other things — or sometimes nothing. “Menstrual cycles vary significantly when you are in your teens, breastfeeding, or going through perimenopause,” Anna Druet, chief scientific researcher at female health app Clue, tells Allure. “Beyond those times, it’s still very normal for cycles to vary, to an extent.”

Before you even begin to get concerned about a late period, know that the timing of yours could vary by up to seven to nine days from one cycle to the next. “Your body is not a clock, after all, and your cycle is constantly adapting to your environment,” Druet says. “It’s much more common to have some variation than to be completely ‘regular.’”

But that time of the month could be delayed for a specific reason. Ahead, eight things that might be keeping your period at bay.

1. You’re super stressed.

Stress doesn’t just affect your mind. It also affects your body, and that includes your cycle. “Stress…activates hormonal changes in the body, encouraging the release of the hormone cortisol,” Druet says. “Cortisol can lead to the suppression of reproductive hormones, causing a delay in both ovulation and the period.”

2. You’re on new meds.

Did you start taking a new birth control or other medication that affects your reproductive hormones? If so, that could be affecting your period. “Some hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, may make the lining of uterus very thin and can also affect the release of reproductive hormones, menses in some cases,” Aaron Styer, a reproductive endocrinologist and co-medical director of Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) Boston, tells Allure.

Aside from birth control, Druet flags thyroid medications and steroids as meds that can potentially delay your period, as they “influence the hormones that control your cycle.”

3. You’ve been exercising excessively.

If you’ve really ramped up your workout routine, you could see the effects in the timing of your period: Expending a lot of energy may signal to your body that it’s time to ramp down the production of fertility-related hormones. “Excessive exercise can affect the delicate cross talk between the brain and ovaries,” Styer says. “As a result, the hormone signals from the brain may not be as efficient as usual in directing the selection of an egg from the ovary.” That may mean your period is delayed, or that it won’t happen at all that month.

Plenty of women who work out may experience somewhat irregular cycles, but if you stop getting your period altogether for three months or more — a condition called amenorrhea — it’s important to see a doctor. Amenorrhea is linked with increased risk for osteoporosis.

4. You’ve been sick or are dealing with a medical condition.

Illness can certainly influence the timing of your cycle, Styer says. The common cold may not be enough to shift your cycle, but both temporary sickness (for example a severe flu) and chronic conditions (such as polycystic ovary syndrome) can throw it out of whack. Druet names thyroid disorders and uterine polyps or fibroids as other conditions that can have the same effect.

5. Your weight or diet has dramatically changed.

Styer says that if you’ve lost or gained a high amount of weight, your cycle may be affected. Your changing diet may also be the cause of a late period, Druet notes. “Severely restricting the amount of calories you consume — or not getting enough calories for how much you exercise — can cause the reproductive hormones to stop, whilst weight gain can cause estrogen to rise,” she says. “Both…can affect the menstrual cycle.”

6. You’ve been crossing time zones.

Did you take a big trip recently? Travel to a far-off land can definitely affect your cycle. “Since the timing and release of reproductive hormones from the brain is dependent upon light, extensive travel across many times zones may temporarily affect the timing of ovulation and cause a delay in when a period may come,” Styer says.

7. You’re getting closer to menopause.

“Women in their 40s and early 50s who are approaching menopause a normal increase in the frequency of prolonged time intervals between periods,” Styer says. But don’t rule it out if you’re not yet in your 40s. Some women do experience ovary function loss before then.

All this said, Styer notes that you may not be able to pinpoint the cause of a late period without consulting your physician — but you may not need to. “The vast majority of cases of one late period and or few late periods in the course of year does not warrant medical evaluation and should not be of concern,” he says. But if it becomes a recurrent issue — specifically, if you go longer than 40 or 50 days between periods or your periods don’t come at least every 35 to 40 days — then it’s time to make an appointment.

Even if it does end up being nothing (or nothing serious), it’s worth it to get checked out. “Having a menstrual cycle is like having a fifth vital sign — like your blood pressure or pulse,” Druet says. “It can let you know when everything is working as usual, or if something else might be going on. An irregular cycle may be the first noticeable symptom of a treatable hormonal condition.” Because hormones are important for your long-term health, including your heart health and bone density, the earlier you take care of any problems, the better. “Many people only learn they have an issue when they experience difficulty getting pregnant, but their cycles have shown evidence of the condition for a while before that,” Druet points out.

Bottom line? “Befriend your cycle, know your cycle, and track your cycle,” Druet says. “It can give you — and tell you — a lot.”

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.

1. Stress

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.

So you could ignore it for a few days, but now it’s been almost a week and you’re starting to get nervous – why is my period late?!

Take a deep breath, and go through this checklist:

Double-check when your period was due.

Check your period tracker app, if you use one. (If not, here are some to consider for future use!). If you don’t use an app, try to think back to when you had your last period. A trick we like to use is thinking back to a holiday or special occasion and working from there, especially if you don’t have regular periods. If your period is only three to eight days late, it might just be – late! Believe it or not, things like stress, diet, exercise, and illness can impact your cycle length. If your period is less than two weeks late, then it may very well just be that you had a long menstrual cycle this time around. You could wait another day or two to see if you start bleeding, or…

Consider taking a home pregnancy test.

If your period is more than two weeks late, then you can consider taking an at-home pregnancy test. These can be purchased from most drug stores (think CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and so on), and usually aren’t too expensive. Make sure to read and follow the directions when you take the test. If it comes back negative, then you may not be pregnant. If it comes back positive, then –

If your take-home pregnancy test comes back positive, you might be pregnant.

At this point, you have a couple of options. You can take another at-home test to confirm the results from the first one, or you can go to a doctor and have them do a pregnancy test to confirm. If you weren’t planning to be pregnant, you definitely have a lot to think about at this point. Check out some of our resources that can help you process and come to an informed decision.

If your take-home pregnancy test comes back negative – but you’re still worried about your late period

Do some reflecting on your recent activities and ask yourself – have I substantially increased my exercise intensity? Have I significantly changed my diet? Did I start any new medications? There’s a variety of reasons why your period may be late, so keep breathing, stay aware of any changes in your body or activities, and – if it gets to the point where you’re really worried – check in with your doctor.

If you don’t want to be pregnant and just want your period back, then call carafem!

We talk with you about your options, and can oftentimes make next-day appointments. If you decide that you don’t want to be pregnant (and you are less than 11 weeks along), then we’re happy to guide you through the process of a calm, educational, and non-judgmental abortion experience.

Our appointments are about an hour long, and you spend the entire time with a knowledgeable and compassionate clinician who can answer your questions and assist you, every step of the way. And – bonus – we’ll even talk about birth control options so that you can determine the best method for your life! If you choose to have an abortion, then your period may return as soon as two weeks after your appointment.

If you continue your pregnancy

If you choose to continue your pregnancy to term, then you most likely won’t get your period back until about six weeks after you give birth. Factors that impact the return of your period after birth include things like stress, whether you’re breastfeeding or not, and if you start using hormonal birth control. (Its important that you start thinking about your family planning needs right away, since its also possible to get pregnant within a month of giving birth!)

So there you have it – how to find your period when it goes missing!

Abortion Information You Can Trust

carafem medical standards and guidelines have been composed and approved by Board-certified Ob/Gyn Physicians as part of the carafem medical committee. Still have questions? Check out our FAQ page, or call us at 855-SAY-CARA, or find a location near you.

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.

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.

It’s a real bummer when Aunt Flo arrives unexpectedly, but it can be even more panic-inducing when she doesn’t show up at all. Every woman has a late or missed period at some point and the first step to figuring out why is getting familiar with your period before it’s missed. “In order to determine your normal menstrual cycle it is important to keep track of when you have your period through a calendar or app on your phone,” says Shannon Schellhammer, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., an obstetrician/gynecologist at Orlando Health.

Essentially, every woman’s body is different and works at its own speed. In fact, despite the popular belief that there are 28 days in a menstrual cycle, a 2019 study of more than 600,000 women in the journal Nature found that only 13% of women have 28-day cycles, and 29.3 days is actually the average length. On top of that, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics reports that a normal cycle can range anywhere from 24 to 38 days.

“Your period is late if you are more than five days past the expected start date of your period,” says Jacqueline M. Walters, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist and author of the forthcoming book The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care. “Your period is considered missed if you have gone more than one to two weeks past the expected start date.” Our bodies are so complex that the potential reasons why you might miss a period are endless, but here are a few common ones.

1. Pregnancy

“The number one cause for a missed period is pregnancy!” says Dr. Schellhammer. She advises taking a home pregnancy test if you are sexually active, regardless of your age and form of birth control. Once you rule out pregnancy, it is safe to wait for the next month to see if you have a normal period. “However, if you are concerned or do not have a clear cause of why you missed your period, I recommend you call your OB/GYN or primary care doctor to be seen. This is especially important if you have not been seen within the last year for an annual well-woman exam.”

2. Stress

Stress — whether it’s from something great like planning a wedding, starting a job, or moving to a new house, or something not-so-great like job loss, a bad relationship, or depression — can press “pause” on your period. “The chemistry required to develop and produce a ‘normal’ cycle can be influenced and delayed by high levels of cortisol and/or adrenaline, which increase in the body as a result of chronic, daily stress,” says Hector O. Chapa, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas A&M University College of Medicine. “This delayed cycle may be your body’s way of reminding you to take care of yourself.” If stress is the cause for your missed period, it should resume when things in your life calm down.

3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

“Without a doubt, PCOS is the most common ‘hormone imbalance in women that leads to delayed or missed cycles in women aged 18 to 44, excluding pregnancy,” says Dr. Chapa. The condition occurs when a woman produces more male hormones than normal. “While blood tests and a vaginal ultrasound may support a diagnosis, the diagnosis may be considered if a woman has two of these three symptoms: excess facial or male-pattern hair growth, irregular periods and ovaries that appear to have little cysts.” There’s no cure, but your OB/GYN can help you find the right treatment to get your cycle back on track. If PCOS isn’t the culprit, your physician can help you figure out if another hormonal imbalance caused by thyroid or pituitary problems is at play.

4. Excess exercise

Exercise is necessary for our well-being, but too much of it—without the caloric support—can take a toll on our bodies and trigger missed periods. “The ‘female athlete triad’ occurs when a female athlete has low energy intake or disordered eating, menstrual delays or absence and low bone mass,” says Dr. Chapa. Along the same lines, a bodyweight that’s more than 10% below the ideal weight for your height can mess with your menstrual cycle.

Rattankun ThongbunGetty Images

5. Medications

When you put a chemical into your body (including herbal supplements), it can cause a chain reaction that spreads across different systems. “Birth control, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and chemotherapy can all cause a missed period,” says Dr. Walters. If you recently started a new medication and started skipping periods, bring it up with your physician to see if it’s a normal side effect. For instance, with some contraceptives — including IUDs, the shot, and certain birth control pills — your period may stop altogether.

6. Perimenopause

“Unless the ovaries are surgically removed, menopause doesn’t just happen,” says Dr. Chapa. “The interval leading up to menopause is called the perimenopause and is marked by hot flashes, mood changes, and of course, changes in the menstrual cycle — called ‘skips and delays.’” While the average age of menopause in the U.S. is 51, Dr. Chapa says these changes can start anytime in your 40s.

The bottom line: “A missed period rarely causes immediate harm to a woman’s health, but it does signify something underlying,” says Dr. Walters. “If the pattern continues, it can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant, cause bone loss, lead to ovarian cysts, and cause excessive male-pattern hair growth — thinning or balding on the head and more hair on the face, chest and abdomen.” No one knows your body better than you so the best thing you can do is pay attention and don’t hesitate to give your OB/GYN a call if something feels off.

Kaitlyn Pirie Sr. Editor Kaitlyn started her career as a reporter in the research department at Real Simple and went on to become a health editor at Family Circle before joining the Hearst team.

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