Counting the Days: Understanding Why My Period Is Late

Anxiety can take up a lot of space in our minds whenever a period is missing or late. Pregnancy is the first thing most people think about in the case of a missing or late period. 

However, the fact is that while pregnancy could be a reason for the delay, it is only one possibility. Remember that your body is a complex structure, and a missing period could be caused by a number of factors. 

While recent travels, diet, and changes in your sleep schedule may seem unrelated to your period, they can all impact your menstrual cycle. 

Therefore, before worrying about a pregnancy, make sure to:

  • Identify any recent changes in your day-to-day routine that could be a cause.
  • Keep track of any other symptoms you may have noticed recently.
  • Take a moment to relax and decompress. Remember that stress plays a vital role in your menstrual cycle.

How late can my period be before I start worrying?

An adult menstrual cycle can vary by up to nine days. If your period is not regular and its length constantly changes, try to remember the first day of your last three periods. Then, count the number of days between one period and another. 

If the variation of your current period exceeds 7 to 9 days, it could be a sign of a missing period rather than a normal irregularity.

Can my period be late while not being pregnant?

Pregnancy is the most common reason behind a missing period, but it is not always the case. An issue in your menstrual cycle could also be related to your overall health, age, and recent dietary or lifestyle changes:

1. Body Weight

Both low body weight and obesity can cause your period to be irregular. Not having enough body fat can pause the ovulation cycle. On the other hand, too much body fat could cause an overproduction of estrogen. Both irregularities could lead to late or missing periods. 

In some cases, if the changes in your body occur suddenly, your cycle may stop altogether.

2. Stress

Chronic stress could lead to hormonal imbalances and affect the timing of your period. Constant anxiety and stress could also cause weight imbalances, impacting your menstrual cycle. 

By trying breathing techniques and relaxing exercises like yoga, you can reduce the stress levels in your body and regulate your hormonal cycle.

3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) causes your body to produce more male hormones and unbalances your insulin levels. This leads to the development of cysts in the ovary and can cause ovulation to either become irregular or stop altogether.

Constant variations in your ovulation cycle can affect the regularity of your period. Although there is no cure for PCOS, your doctor can guide you through a personalized treatment to help manage the symptoms.

4. Birth Control

Birth control pills, or implanted contraceptives, aim to change the amount of estrogen and progestin hormones in your body. If you have recently gone on or off the pill or IUD (intrauterine device), it is normal to notice irregularities in your period. These may range from bleeding in between periods to cycle irregularities. 

After you’ve stopped taking the pill, it may take up to three months for your menstrual cycle to become consistent again.

5. Chronic Diseases

A chronic disease causes multiple changes in your body and could be responsible for irregular periods:

  • Diabetes: The changes in blood sugar related to diabetes could cause hormonal irregularities that either delay or stop your cycle altogether. 
  • Thyroid issues: An overactive or underactive thyroid gland causes changes in your metabolism and hormone levels. If left untreated, thyroid issues could disrupt your menstrual cycle.
  • Celiac disease: Inflammation in your intestine caused by celiac disease may prevent your body from absorbing vital nutrients essential to maintain your hormonal levels.

How can I know if I’m pregnant?

If you’ve recently had unprotected sex and your period is more than ten days late, you should take a pregnancy test. Remember that a pharmacy (urine) test can be inaccurate if you take it too early. We suggest you take it two weeks after your missed period to ensure a precise result. 

If you’ve had a negative result but still haven’t got your menstrual cycle, wait a few days before repeating it or opt for a blood test.

What to Do In Case of Pregnancy

If your results come back positive, consider making a plan that contemplates your future decisions. Try talking to your doctor about the next steps to ensure your well-being. 

Remember that your decisions and experiences belong only to you. If you are unsure about the pregnancy or would like to end your pregnancy, you can consider alternatives in your reproductive health journey.

At #LC4W, we care for your reproductive life and support your decisions. We offer accessible and comprehensive abortion-care services, including:

When should I contact my doctor?

If you haven’t had a period in more than 90 days and your pregnancy results stay negative, contact your doctor. They can help you figure out what is causing the change in your cycle by running needed lab analyses. 

Remember that variations in your period are completely normal and not always related to pregnancy. Your menstrual cycle is a complex system, and many factors could be causing its irregularities. Try listening to your body and keep track of any recent changes that could help you identify the root cause of your late period.

#LC4W: Your Partner in Reproductive Health

At #LC4W, your journey is our journey. We are dedicated to providing you with the most compassionate and safe abortion care. 

Your decisions and experiences are unique to you, and we want you to know that you are part of a community that understands and cares. If you’d like to access comprehensive abortion care in the state of Massachusetts, please fill out our intake form here.

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