My Period is Late: What Can Be The Reason

In Diagnosis & Treatment by Dr. Clinton Osborn

There is no such thing as a regular menstruation where your period comes on a specific day at a specific time. Because of the constant hormonal fluctuation on a day-to-day basis, it’s normal for your period to be early or late. 

A lot of times, women get worried about late periods and automatically assume they are pregnant or something is wrong with them. While either of these might be true, there are a lot of factors that can cause late periods. Take a look at some of the main causes, and talk to a medical professional virtually with GuruMD for more insight.

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Pregnancy

This is the most obvious reason. If you are pregnant, your uterus will stop shedding the uterine lining. If your period is more than 7 to 10 days late, it’s best to get a pregnancy test to see if you’re pregnant. 

Keep in mind that these tests tend to have a lot of false-negative, especially if the pregnancy stage is very early. The pregnancy test detects beta hCG hormone, so you might have to wait a couple of days to a week later. The best course of action is to go to the doctor if you think you might be pregnant.

Stress

When you are stressed, the sympathetic hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are released in your system. The stress hormone has an impact on your menstruation system by delaying them. After all, if you are in danger, it won’t make sense for the body to release hormones to stimulate a period. That is why students who are studying for an exam or employees trying to reach a deadline tend to notice that their periods are often delayed.

Exercise

Athletes often experience amenorrhea or lack of menstruation, and sometimes they even have delayed periods. This is normal mainly because during exercise, the body decreases the production of estrogen, and the sympathetic hormones are released to delay the period. It’s the combination of low estrogen levels and high sympathetic hormones that will slow down your period.

Eating disorder

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia occurs when the individual does not consume enough food. When that happens, the body goes through a malnutrition state where they have to conserve energy to thrive. Not only that, but the body would also stop producing estrogen to delay or prevent a period.

Obesity

Obesity means that there are more fat cells, which translates to higher estrogen levels. This can create a more significant uterine lining, therefore, cause heavy bleeding during menstruation. However, obesity can also lead to delay menstruation because of a massive hormone fluctuation from the estrogen produced by the fat cells. In this case, the doctor would advise dieting and eating healthy to get back to normal weight.

Birth Control

Birth control provides estrogen in your body, therefore, sending a negative feedback mechanism to your hypothalamus. As a result, it decreases the internal production of estrogen. When that happens, there is a low amount of uterine lining. With very little lining, it can delay your period or cause amenorrhea.

Thinking about birth control? Find out how GuruMD can give you a virtual house call to help you learn how each kind affects your body.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS will cause the body to produce high amounts of testosterone and estrogen. This can cause a significant amount of cysts to form on the ovaries. The hormone imbalance can stop ovulation and therefore inhibit the menstruation process. 

Keep in mind that insulin resistance from PCOS can increase the development of fat cells; therefore, elevate estrogen. This causes a significant amount of hormone fluctuations that can also delay your period. The best way to keep your hormones regulated is through birth control.

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Early Menopause

Early menopause occurs when there is a low amount of estrogen in your body. This will prevent the uterine lining from building up, therefore, delaying or stopping the period. With this in mind, you will also have other symptoms of hot flashes, dry vagina, fatigue, and other menopausal symptoms.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease involves a gluten allergy that can cause the stomach to bloat. It affects the way the G.I. system absorbs nutrients. That is why a lot of patients with celiac disease are prone to malnutrition. When this happens, it can lead to severe weight loss, which can cause the body to decrease the production of estrogen. Without estrogen, the menstruation process will definitely be delayed or stopped.

Thyroid problems

A high or low thyroid hormone can cause a delay or missed period. After all, the thyroid hormone regulates the body‘s metabolism system, which can affect estrogen levels. Fortunately, thyroid problems can be treated with medication. After the proper treatment, your menstruation cycle should return to normal in no time.

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Complications from Late Periods

It really depends on the underlying issues with a delayed menstrual cycle. If your period is late due to low levels of estrogen from menopause, eating disorders, extreme exercise, and much more, then that can lead to complications of bone fractures and osteoporosis. If it is due to stress, just make sure you follow healthy habits.

Keep in mind that estrogen helps facility calcium absorption and levels in the body. With a significantly low estrogen level, you may experience problems with utilizing the calcium in the body as well as maintaining it at a proper level. 

When this happens, it can affect your bone structur. It leads to easy fractures and the formation of osteoporosis, which is weak mineralization of the bone due to improper calcium levels. 

Luckily, if you address the underlying issue and replenish your estrogen levels, you can prevent bone complications. However, if a delay period is due to stress and anxiety, then you won’t experience this complication. 

When should I see the doctor for my late period

If you have symptoms of fever, severe pain, and bleeding that lasts longer than seven days, nausea/vomiting, heavy bleeding, and bleeding after menopause, then definitely see the doctor. The doctor can perform physical examination and imaging tests like an ultrasound to help detect any underlying medical conditions.

Conclusion

It’s usually normal to have a late period. If you have a tight deadline, then the stress and anxiety can affect your menstrual cycle. However, if your period is delayed for more than a week, then it’s time to take a pregnancy test.

If the test is negative, and you realize that some significant changes and delays are continuously occurring, then definitely see a doctor for a blood test, physical examination, or imaging tests. There might be some underlying conditions such as early menopause, malnutrition, PCOS, thyroid problems, or any issues that can affect the hormones in your body. 

With all these details and insights, we hope that you have adequate information about the menstrual cycle. Register here to get started with GuruMD’s online doctors.
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