For numerous women in their reproductive years, the first inkling of a possible pregnancy often comes when their usually predictable menstrual cycle takes an unexpected turn.
It’s not about a period that’s a few days late – that can happen due to a variety of reasons, including stress, changes in weight, or even minor illnesses. Rather, we’re referring to menstrual cycles that have gone off track by weeks or even months.
In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind significantly delayed periods, with a particular focus on pregnancy as a potential cause. We understand that this can be a time of uncertainty and even anxiety for many women.
We aim to provide clear, accurate information to help you understand what might be happening in your body, and guide you on the next steps you might need to take. Whether you’re actively trying to conceive or worried about an unplanned pregnancy, we’re here to provide the information you need. Let’s dive in and unravel the mystery of missed periods.
When this strikes you, the first question to ask yourself is “How old am I?”
The underlying reasons for a missed period vary by age.
If you have just stepped into puberty, your periods may not have a fixed schedule as your body takes time to adjust itself to its new condition, usually taking 6 months to a year to do so. Unless you have had sex the month before, this should be normal. See a doctor should it take more than a year to adjust or if your last period was more than 6 months ago.
Speaking about missed periods in a woman in her late 40s, menopause comes first on the list. Missed periods are not menopause unless your last period was 12 months ago. Like the irregularity you have faced in your early years of puberty, your body has the same reason when it comes to menopause; that is, trying to adjust the body to stop menstruating.
Delayed periods are normal at the start and the end of your fertile life
Missed periods occurring at other than the above-mentioned ages (i.e. somewhere between 18 and 45 years old) can be worrisome. Whether it’s normal or not is a big question. If you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or are on contraceptive pills, then yes, it’s normal.
Delayed menstruation can also be caused by reasons as simple as stress, being overweight, underweight, or anorexia, all of which may sometimes be overlooked. Excessive exercise, such as those done by athletes, may also delay menses.
If you think none of the above applies to you, then let us move on to more serious, but not uncommon problems which may call for a doctor’s attention. The most common problem women face is cysts growing in their ovaries, medically termed ‘polycystic ovarian syndrome’ or abbreviated as PCOS. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that develop in a woman’s ovaries.
The word ‘poly’ refers to more than one cyst growing in the ovary. Nevertheless, even one cyst may disturb your menstruation, let alone if it is multiple. Cyst tends to get bigger when the ovary fails to ovulate and releases the egg into the Fallopian tube. This is caused by, and in turn, may lead to hormonal imbalances.
Delayed menstruation can also be caused by reasons as simple as stress, being overweight, underweight, or anorexia, all of which may sometimes be overlooked.
If you have had any abortions, cleaning of your womb (D&C) after a miscarriage, hysteroscopy, or any other instrumental procedures done on your cervix or womb, adhesions are more likely suspected. Adhesions are fibrous bands forming between tissues and organs due to scarring.
These block blood flow during menses and may trick you into thinking that you have missed a cycle. This, as well as PCOS, may cause infertility. If you are trying to conceive, it is wise to consider these possibilities.
Other less common causes of missed menstruation are diabetes, thyroid hormone imbalance, intestinal problems, tuberculosis, and liver diseases. Don’t forget that side effects of various medications or drug abuse can also be a cause.
So, should you see a doctor right away? Don’t rush, don’t stress yourself up. Relax. Take a deep breath. Try to think of the possibilities of being pregnant. You might want to get yourself a urine pregnancy test to make sure pregnancy is not the cause of your missed periods.
If you’re overweight/underweight, reducing your weight/gaining weight helps restore normal cycles and fertility. Check your body mass index to be sure. Still not helping? Still not sure what is the cause of your missed periods? Looks like it’s time for you to see a doctor for further tests.
Hormonal Contraceptives and Missed Periods
Hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches, injections, or intrauterine devices (IUDs), can sometimes lead to missed periods. These contraceptives work by altering the hormonal balance in the body to prevent ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovaries. When no egg is released, pregnancy cannot occur.
However, these changes in hormonal balance can also affect the menstrual cycle. Some women may experience lighter periods, fewer periods, or no periods at all while using hormonal contraceptives. This is especially common with methods that release hormones continuously, like the hormonal IUD or the birth control injection.
It’s important to note that while missed periods can be a side effect of hormonal contraceptives, they can also be a sign of pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and missing periods while on birth control, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test to rule out this possibility.
When to Seek Medical Help
While occasional irregularities in the menstrual cycle are normal, there are times when missing periods could indicate a more serious issue. It’s recommended to seek medical help if:
- You’ve missed three or more periods in a row, and you’re not pregnant.
- You’ve started having periods that are more painful or heavier than usual.
- You’ve started having periods that are much lighter than usual.
- You’re experiencing other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss or gain, severe pain, or unusual discharge.
These could be signs of underlying health issues, such as hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or more rarely, conditions like premature ovarian failure or uterine cancer.
In conclusion, missed periods can be caused by a variety of factors, from lifestyle changes and stress to hormonal contraceptives and underlying health conditions. While it’s normal for periods to occasionally be late or missed, persistent irregularities should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and seek medical advice when something doesn’t feel right. Your menstrual cycle is a vital sign of your overall health, and any significant changes should not be ignored. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and always prioritize your health and well-being.