You’re looking at the calendar and counting the days. Something is missing and you start to panic. Sound familiar? Late or missed periods are not as uncommon as you might think. That doesn’t change the fact that our first instinct when we miss our period is to assume we’re pregnant.
Missing your period doesn’t always mean there’s a baby on the way. So before you freak out, here are 8 questions you should ask yourself if Aunt Flow cancels her monthly trip:
- Does this happen a lot?
Some of us just have irregular cycles. A woman can have a cycle shorter than 21 days and much longer than 28. Unless an OB/Gyn has told you there’s cause for concern, it’s all perfectly normal. If your cycle isn’t a standard 21 or 28 day cycle, it’s completely understandable that you’d be late or miss periods.
- Did you recently stop taking birth control?
When I went off birth control, I was shocked and a little afraid when my periods “disappeared” for over 8 months. I found out this is a condition called post-pill amenorrhea (the absence of your menstrual cycle for 6 months or longer after stopping your birth control.) Post-pill amenorrhea itself isn’t common but missing one or two periods after using birth control is. The drugs themselves leave your body quickly but your body will still need to “figure out” how to menstruate on it’s own. In extreme circumstances, you doctor may prescribe something to help jump start things so don’t be afraid to talk to them.
- Are you stressed?
Stress is inevitable in everyday life but high stress levels on an ongoing basis can mean havoc on your body. Stress causes your body to conserve energy which can stop you from ovulating. Sudden stressful events in your life can also prevent your body from making the hormones it needs to build up your uterine lining This is a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea. Your hypothalamus is the part of the brain that control reproduction by releasing the hormone needed for ovulation. It is crucial to see a doctor for testing if you suspect this could be the issue as it can lead to infertility, osteoporosis, and heart disease if left untreated.
- What have you been eating?
There are many food related issues that can cause missed periods. If you happen to have a gluten intolerance you didn’t know about, it could be the culprit for your missed period. If nothing has changed in what you’re eating, consider whether you’re eating enough and eating healthy foods. Hypothalamic amenorrhea can also be caused by poor nutrition so it’s crucial to make sure your body is getting what it needs.
- Are you trying a new exercise routine or have you lost weight?
Excessive exercise is a pretty likely cause for a missed period. Exercise is great but it needs to be done in a safe way. Too much exercise can put a lot of pressure on your glands. If you suddenly change your routine to a vigorous workout, it could be the cause for your missed period. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to push yourself harder in your fitness goals, but set smaller goals to move forward at a good pace and don’t overdo it!
Extreme weight loss or being underweight can also cause you to miss your period. It’s very important to ensure you are losing weight in a healthy manner and that you are maintaining a healthy body weight as best you can. If you think this is the reason for your missed period, it may be a good idea to contact a doctor to talk about possible concerns.
- When did you last see your doctor?
There are countless medical conditions that could cause a missed period. Along with hypothalamic and post-pill amenorrhea, another possibility is thyroid related disorders. Your thyroid is a gland in your neck, just below your throat. It produces hormones for growth and metabolism. An over or underactive thyroid can wreck havoc on your body and missed or irregular periods is one symptom. Other symptoms include; sensitivity to cold, weight gain, and fatigue (underactive, hypothyroidism) or muscle weakness, sweating or heat sensitivity, weight loss but extreme appetite, and restlessness (overactive, hyperthyroidism.) If you’re concerned about the missed periods or you have other new symptoms, it may be a good idea to make an appointment to discuss the possibility of medical problems.
- Are you out of ideas?
Sometimes, it just happens. There isn’t always a reason or explanation for missing your period. Shape.com spoke with Melissa Goist M.D. who stated, “Missing a period is very common and luckily, most of the time, it’s harmless and only your body’s way of showing you some TLC.” If you’re not pregnant, you’re healthy, and this isn’t a common thing, your body could just be messing with you.
If your period is late or you’ve missed it altogether, don’t panic. Definitely take a pregnancy test to be safe and if it will help you sleep at night (you don’t need that extra stress as you learned above), but don’t be shocked if it’s negative. If your test is negative, you have two options: wait it out or see a doctor. Many women have missed 3 or more periods in a row without anything being “wrong” with them but it’s definitely advisable to see a doctor when your body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. There are a lot of issues you could be having that would need medical intervention but there are also many simple explanations. Mother Nature has been the world’s biggest b*tch since the beginning of time and sometimes she’s just trying to keep you guessing.
Featured image via Gabi E. Mulder.