Wondering where your period is? Why it is late? Either you know you cannot be pregnant because you have not had sex, or the pregnancy tests you are taking all come up negative. So what is the issue?
If you are trying to conceive and your cycle is late, but pregnancy is not the reason, it can be heartbreaking. This happened to me several times when trying for our first baby. My hopes soared so high, but test after test failed me and a week later than expected, my cycle showed up.
So really what is the problem? The answer may not be as clear as you want it to be. There are quite a few reasons this could be happening.The science behind your menstrual cycle: In a normal menstrual cycle, the hypothalamus, a regulatory center in the brain, monitors the hormone that is released to the ovaries. When your cycle ends, the hypothalamus stashes the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland in the brain to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones direct an ovary to start making estrogen, and stimulate the maturation of eggs. If fertilization does not occur during ovulation (meaning if a sperm does not reach and fertilize the released egg), the ovary stops its elevated production of both estrogen and progesterone. The sudden fall in the concentrations of these hormones causes shedding of the blood-rich uterine lining and bleeding begins (your period). Then, in response to low hormone levels, there is a rise in GnRH and the cycle starts all over again.
15 Possible Reasons Your Period is Late (But You are NOT Pregnant)
- Stress: Stress can affect many things in our lives, including our periods. Sometimes you're so stressed out that your body decreases the amount of a hormone (GnRH), which causes you to not ovulate or menstruate. Emotional and physical stress can both be to blame. Things in your work or personal life may cause sudden spikes in your stress levels, or you could suffer from chronic stress. Either way, if the timing of the stress delays your ovulation, it will delay the start of your period. Working on reducing your stress, and taking the time to relax, will help your cycle get back on track.
- Breastfeeding: If you are breastfeeding, it is common for cycles to be irregular for the first few months after they return. Research shows that breastfeeding may significantly delay the return of fertility. Personally, my cycle does not return for over a year postpartum due to breastfeeding. By nursing your baby on demand, you create a natural sibling spacing. While breastfeeding, you may experience irregular periods or spotting as a result of variances in the hormones released while breastfeeding. This could be a result of a decrease in nursing because of a sickness in your baby, teething, getting a sitter, or just changes in appetite. This is why some women may have a first period after delivery, and maybe even begin having a normal period while breastfeeding, and then stop as an increase in nursing can cause menstruation to stop. Your own hormonal balance prior to breastfeeding may also affect how your cycle functions while nursing.
- Recently Off Birth Control: Because hormonal birth control takes over the hormones of the body, when it is withdrawn from the body, there will be a period of time before the body gets back on a consistent cycle. This can mean irregular cycles with frequent bleeding, lighter periods, heavier periods, or delayed ovulation and periods. The body should adjust within 6 months of discontinuing hormonal birth control.
- Sudden Weight Loss – When your BMI is below 18%, the body often stops menstruation. A low BMI may result from excess physical training, lack of calorie intake or genetics. If you get your BMI back to normal levels, you may start experiencing a normal cycle again.
- Extreme Exercise: Excess exercise can impact your reproductive hormones. By causing inadequate estrogen production, your cycle may be extremely delayed or missed all together.
- Weight Gain: Sudden weight gain can also affect ovulation, since too much body fat can lead to increased production of estrogen.
- Illness: Viruses, colds, and flu all effect the body just as stress does. If the timing of your illness is prior to the body ovulating, ovulation may be delayed which also delays the start of your period.
- Change in Schedules: Changing schedules can really throw off your body clock. This is particularly true if you go from days to nights at work or vice versa.
- Change in Medications (Or medications in general): Medications can cause delayed or shortened periods, menorrhagia (heavy or prolonged bleeding or amenorrhea (no menstruation). For example: antidepressants and high blood pressure medicine.
- Pituitary or Thyroid Issues: Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid functioning) and especially hypothyroidism (low functioning) have become common among women. The classic symptoms of hypothyroidism include sluggishness, early morning fatigue, cold extremities, lowered basal temperature and menstrual problems, including scanty periods. The thyroid gland is basically your body’s internal thermometer, regulating functions such as internal temperature and metabolism. too high or low hormone levels produced by the thyroid can cause late, missed, or irregular periods, and even menstrual spotting between cycles or menorrhagia, which is abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding during periods.
- Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome: An epidemic sweeping this generation of women, over 20% are assumed to be suffering from PCOS. PCOS refers to multiple cysts on the ovaries and a host of other problems that go along with them, including anovulation (lack of ovulation) and menstrual abnormalities. It occurs when a woman does not ovulate, which causes a disruption in the normal relationship between the hormones, brain and ovaries. PCOS is when the follicle migrates to the outside of the ovary, but does not "pop" the egg and release it. Instead, the follicle becomes a cyst, and the normal progesterone surge does not occur. The lack of progesterone is detected by the hypothalamus, which continues to try to stimulate the ovary by increasing its production of GnRH, which increases the pituitary production of FSH and LH. This stimulates the ovary to make more estrogen and androgens, which stimulates more follicles toward ovulation. If these additional follicles are also unable to produce a matured ovum or make progesterone, the menstrual cycle is dominated by increased estrogen and androgen production without progesterone. This is the fundamental abnormality that creates PCOS.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is the buildup of endometrial (uterine lining) tissue outside the uterus, most often in or on the fallopian tubes, ovaries and pelvic area. It is thought to be caused by or exacerbated by estrogen dominance (too much estrogen in relation to progesterone), and it can cause organ dysfunction or intestinal blockage. Symptoms include painful menstruation and frequent and severe bleeding with an irregular cycle.
- Autoimmune Disease (Celiac, Lyme, etc): Chronic illness can wreak havoc on the body, as many autoimmune diseases mimic other illnesses by disrupting different systems of the body. They have the ability to alter everything from the woman’s menstrual cycle to brain development.
- Birth Control: A low-dose pill or the hormonal IUD may cause your period to slowly disappear. These hormones are foreign to the body -chemicals actually- and can cause damage to more than just your cycle. Taking antibiotics while on birth control can disrupt the birth control and cancel it out. This may allow for pregnancy to occur or cause your cycle to start at an unexpected time.
- Peri-menopause: This is the period of time where you are transitioning from reproductive age to a non-reproductive age. Your periods may be lighter, heavier, more frequent or less frequent - but mostly just not normal.
If you feel as though your hormones are off and causing problems with your menstrual cycle, there are several things you can do:
- First, support the endocrine system and allow it time to repair.
- Support immune function, thereby reducing stress on the endocrine system.
- Make dietary and nutritional changes according to genetic predisposition, allergies, personal weight and exercise objectives.
- Support proper digestive function; eliminate any malabsorption problems.
- Get exercise, establishing your level of capacity and personal training objectives.
- To relieve stress, try meditation, hypnotherapy, visualization, Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi or QiGong.
- Consider individual counseling and group stress management workshops.
- Relax by walking in nature, swimming, pursuing creative activities, changing routines.
Comprehensive hormonal testing should be performed to establish a baseline before a woman chooses any kind of hormonal treatment, and then should be repeated periodically thereafter.