Puberty hits and you start planning your vacations and big days according to your expected periods date. But all of a sudden they disappear for months. Are you stressing over the causes of this delay? Well, don’t be stressed, as it is also one of the causes of delayed menstrual periods.
Read below to find out all the possible causes for your delayed periods!
- Periods begin in females after puberty and the bleeding continues for 3-7 days.
- Primary or secondary amenorrhea occurs due to stress, obesity, lean body mass,
- Diabetes, thyroid disorders, and PCOS also complicate the regular cycle
- Hormonal medicines and dietary considerations can help regulate the menstrual cycle.
How late are late periods?
Menstrual irregularities may affect 14-25% of women of childbearing age.
During your normal menstrual cycle (the time between your first period’s day to the day before your next period), ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tube. If fertilization occurs, the egg is implanted into the uterus and pregnancy occurs after which your regular menstrual bleeding stops. However, if fertilization doesn’t occur, the level of sex hormones falls low, and the womb lining breaks and is released from your body as menstrual bleeding which lasts for about 3-7 days.
The normal cycle varies for all. It may be an average of 28 days, but cycles ranging from 21-40 days are considered normal. Any delay further than this is called secondary amenorrhea or delayed menstrual periods.
Causes of delayed menstrual periods
There are a number of possible causes of delayed menstrual periods. Some of them are listed here;
Well! A fussy boss or a nosy colleague can be a big problem but don’t overburden yourself because stress can cause menstrual delay.
A continuously stressful life can affect your reproductive health and the stress over your declining health causes more stress. So, take a break and break this stress-over-stress cycle.
When you are overburdened, cortisol, a stress hormone, is released and the body enters a flight-and-flight response. The ovaries stop releasing eggs as the body is in survival mode hence, the periods get delayed.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea (HA) is another reason for delayed periods in over 30% of women of childbearing age. The cortisol enters the conversation between the ovaries and the brain and asks the brain to stop producing hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle. Hypothalamus obeys the order and the periods get delayed.
Yes! You are thinking right. This is the reason why chronic stress is bad when you are trying to get pregnant.
- Try stress management techniques
- Exercise regularly
- Get professional help, if required, to manage stress
Obesity is one major cause of delayed menstrual periods. You missed your menstrual periods’ date and now you are wondering why?
Get your BMI checked. If it is >30, chances are that you are overweight, which might affect your regular menstrual cycle. Excess body weight causes the body to produce excess estrogen and that causes periods to delay as it is the basic hormone managing your reproductive system.
- Consult your dietician to help you shed some extra pounds
- Exercise regularly
- Improve your lifestyle
Low Body Mass Index
Your lean fragile body can be a cause of delayed menstrual periods.
A BMI <18.5 indicates you are underweight and lack the necessary calories to produce normal hormones that manage your ovarian cycle.
Excessive and sudden weight loss puts your body in shock, and hence, lacking the energy to run your normal reproductive cycle. Anorexia Nervosa (excessive weight loss and fear to gain weight) also results in hormonal imbalance which restricts your ovaries to release eggs and hence hampers regular menstruation.
- Consult your dietitian for a customized diet plan
- Maintain a healthy eating lifestyle
Diet & Excessive Exercise
Eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa (abnormally low body weight and intense fear of getting overweight) & Bulimia Nervosa (eating abnormally and vomiting to get rid of extra calories) may cause delayed menstrual periods.
Certain foods like cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice can delay your periods. Watermelon, cucumber, and other foods with cooling effects can help keep your periods at bay for some time.
Amenorrhea or delayed periods occur in 44% of athletic women or those who undergo excessive exertion or exercise. Research shows that the delay in monthly periods may be attributed to excessive exercise which leads to hypothalamic suppression. This is due to low energy levels, physical and psychological stress, low calories, lesser body fat, etc. If you want to get periods immediately in one hour, read this article.
- Dietary counseling
- Taking vitamin D & calcium supplements
- Counseling on altering the training schedule
- Hormonal therapy
Birth control pills
If you are on birth control or contraceptive pills, your period cycle might get delayed so there is nothing to worry about.
Contraceptives contain estrogen or progestin. Both of these hormones are the backbones of your menstrual cycle. If you mess them up with birth control pills, your ovaries will not be releasing eggs like they normally do & your periods will get delayed. It takes about 3 months to recover from your regular menstrual cycle after stopping birth control pills.
If you are up for a vacation but worried about the periods’ discomfort, the solution lies in birth control pills.
- If you are taking birth control pills for family planning or have an intentional delay in your periods, there is nothing to worry about.
- Consult your doctor for dosage adjustments and managing withdrawal effects.
The thyroid plays a key role in managing different body functions; be it your body metabolism or the ovarian cycle. Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can equally affect your menstrual cycle.
The imbalance in hormones due to thyroid abnormalities causes amenorrhea (delay in the menstrual period)
Hypothyroidism may also increase prolactin levels. Prolactin levels delay your ovulation and hence the menstrual bleeding.
- Consult your doctor about delayed menstrual periods to diagnose underlying thyroid diseases
- Medication to treat hyper or hypothyroidism
Diabetes affects the menstrual cycle and the menstrual cycle increases the chances of diabetes. Yes, it’s a two-way deal.
Diabetes, affecting different body organs, affects ovaries by altering progesterone levels, which is the primary hormone responsible for menstrual bleeding.
Obesity & PCOS increases the risk of developing diabetes. According to the CDC, more than half of women with PCOS develop type II diabetes by the age of 40. Additionally, during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle (the step before bleeding), a spike in blood glucose levels occurs, hence increasing the risk of developing diabetes.
Hence, diabetes causes delayed periods or anovulation due to an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels, while obesity and PCOS may increase the risk of developing diabetes Type I diabetes also causes the late onset of menstruation.
- Exercise regularly
- Control your diet
- Manage diabetes
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
If you are overweight then it’s high time to lose some extra pounds as you are at increased risk to develop cysts in your ovaries.
PCOS affects 4-20% of females worldwide. The syndrome does not allow ovaries to release eggs due to the hormonal imbalance and as a result, ovaries form tiny cysts. These cysts produce the male sex hormone (androgen) and cause delayed periods.
Diabetics and those who have a family history of PCOS are at a higher risk.
Get yourself tested if you are missing your menstruation date for a month or so.
- Get your ultrasound done as soon as possible for diagnosis
- Change your dietary habits
- Exercise regularly
- Manage your weight
- Use prescribed medicines accordingly
Perimenopause is the time near menopause (The natural end of your reproductive cycle). The menopausal age varies from woman to woman. Some might experience the symptoms as their age progresses to their 40s while some may enter the league in their 30s.
During this time, the estrogen levels may rise or fall unexpectedly and the length of your menstrual cycle may increase or decrease. Hence, you may face a menstrual period delay during some months and excessive bleeding during others.
Once you have lived 12 months without any bleeding, you are officially menopausal.
As this is a normal physiological delay in periods, there is nothing to worry about. However, the mood changes or the discomfort experienced due to this phase can be managed by therapies.
Certain medications interfere with the normal menstrual cycle and serve as a potent cause of delayed menstrual periods. They may include;
- Thyroid medication
- Antiepileptic drugs
- Chemotherapeutic drugs
Consult your doctor if your periods are missed for 2-3 months continuously.
However, if you intentionally want to delay your periods this medicine might help.
Other illnesses causing delayed menstrual periods
Certain chronic and complicated illnesses may cause hormonal imbalance leading to a noticeable delay in your periods. These conditions involve;
- Celiac disease (an immune response to eating gluten)
- Heart disease
- Swyer syndrome (failure of sex glands i.e. ovaries/testicles to develop)
- Cushing’s disease (too much cortisol production)
- Anemia or iron deficiency
How to deal with delayed periods?
A minor delay in your periods for a few days may not be problematic and at times, the issue may resolve on its own. But in certain cases, your regular cycle may stop for months and this can affect your reproductive health and mess up your hormones as well. Consult a gynecologist to diagnose the underlying condition leading to delayed menstruation.
1. How much delay in periods is normal?
The duration of the menstrual cycle may vary for all. It is 28 days long on average. Your period should start between 21-35 days after your last one but if it doesn’t, it is considered as late.
2. Why are your periods late even when you are not pregnant?
There are many causes of delayed menstrual periods. It may be due to stress, obesity, vigorous exercise, PCOS, contraceptives, or certain medications.
3. When should you worry about the delay of periods?
If you have missed your periods for 3 months in a row, you should pay heed to your medical condition as there may be some underlying disease causing the delay in your menstrual periods.