Periods can be fickle things. Although the average cycle runs its course over about four weeks, nearly every woman is different—and not every woman has a perfectly regular cycle either. Most cycles, whether longer or shorter than the “normal” 28 days, tend to fall at about the same time. And once you become sexually active, a late period can be cause for potential excitement… or potential panic. But there’s more than one reason for a longer than normal cycle, some of which can be serious health problems. Here is a look at five reasons why your period might be late.
Obviously, being pregnant is the big one when it comes to a reason why your period is late. If you’re sexually active and not especially careful (or actively trying to get pregnant), then every time you ovulate there is a chance you might get pregnant over a four day span.
However, if you are on birth control, that could be the reason for a little irregularity. Certain pills, intrauterine devices, and other forms of birth control can cause your period to come late. Stopping birth control can also interrupt hormones sufficiently for a few months that it may cause a missed period or two.
You’ve been running yourself ragged.
Amenorrhea, or not having a period, can be a result of several lifestyle choices. Not taking care of your body means it can’t function like it normally does. Staying incredibly stressed out, exercising excessively, not eating right, or weighing too much or too little can all be reasons why your period hasn’t shown up yet.
If it’s stress, learn to relax! If you’re under- or overweight talk to your doctor about healthy ways to get help and get to a healthy weight.
Your hormones are out of whack.
Women in their teens or approaching the age of menopause tend to have unstable hormones. It can take a few years after starting your period for things to normalize and become regular. If any abnormal bleeding or other issues are occurring along with an irregular period, it’s not a bad idea to mention it to your doctor.
Menopause usually occurs in the late 40s to early 50s. Some women begin earlier than others, so that’s a possibility, too. The change in hormones that come with menopause means no more ovulation, no more pregnancy, and eventually no more periods, but it can take a few years for those to completely stop and may leave you irregular in the meantime.
You have an underlying chronic condition.
Chronic diseases can affect the way the body works as well. Diabetes, thyroid diseases, and celiac disease are three issues that can be especially problematic. The thyroid manages the body’s metabolism, so both hypo- and hyperthyroid diseases can disrupt what has been a very normal cycle. Uncontrolled diabetes means your blood sugar levels are out of whack, which can also affect hormones. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the small intestine to become inflamed, interrupting normal nutrient absorption, similarly to the way not eating properly will disrupt your menstrual cycle. If you think one of these is the issue, talk to your primary care physician immediately.
You have a serious reproductive condition.
Health issues surrounding the reproductive system can also cause late or irregular periods. Polycystic ovary symptom (PCOS) is especially known for its disruption of the menstrual cycle. Androgen, a male hormone also found in women, is produced in larger amounts than normal, resulting in the formation of cysts on the ovaries. Between the hormones and the cysts, cycles can become lengthier or periods can disappear altogether.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to communicate with your doctor if you’re concerned. Most experts recommend seeing a healthcare professional if 90 days have passed since your last period, regardless of what you think might be the reason.