Photo: Rachel Crowe
Unless you’re actively trying to have a baby, getting your period is a monthly sign that you’re not pregnant, and can be a relief.
So what happens when you’re on point with tracking your cycle, but no bleeding happens on day 1?
Before you panic and buy pregnancy tests, consider these 5 possibilities for why your period might be later than usual.
Major changes in weight or diet
Have you recently lost or gained a significant amount of weight? Serious eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can cause missed periods, but so can other life events and changes in body composition.
Also consider any changes in athletic training. Periods of intense training, like training for a marathon, committing to an intense new training plan, or spending hours in the gym can put extra stress on the body and cause you to miss your period.
Missing your period is your body’s way of “protecting you from getting pregnant if your body is under such extreme stress,” says one ob-gyn.
Thyroid issues, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or chronic diseases
Do you have a history of thyroid issues? Does your family? If this is the case for you and you have an unusually late period, check with your doctor. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism, which can throw your hormones out of whack.
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also tend to miss or have irregular periods, because the condition causes an imbalance of female hormones.
And if you know or suspect that you struggle with chronic diseases like Celiac disease, which can prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients it needs. Again, missing a period could be your body’s way of saying it isn’t prepared to carry a baby at right now.
Think about times that you have missed or had irregular periods in the past. Did they coincide with particularly stressful or tumultuous times in your life? Chronic stress–whether it’s caused by a job, lack of sleep, a toxic relationship, or something else–can take a toll on your body and affect the hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain that regulates your cycle.
Consider other stressful factors in your life–travel, a recent move, grief–any of these could affect you physically and cause your period to arrive late.
Ironically, the pill that so many rely on to regulate their periods can also cause irregular or missed periods if you are just going on or off of it.
According to some sources, your period can take up to six months to become regular again after coming off birth control.
While menopause affects most women between ages 45 and 55, some women experience symptoms as early as their 30’s–missed periods, hot flashes, fatigue, and worsened PMS symptoms–due to lower estrogen production as your body stops releasing eggs. This early menopause is known as perimenopause.
The Bottom Line
If you have a missed period but don’t think you’re pregnant, there’s no harm in talking to your doctor if you notice one of these factors applies to you. Missing your period may be your body’s way of telling you that something’s up, and could be alerting you to a bigger issue.
Keeping track of your periods with an app like Period Track can help you to give your doctor the information they need to diagnose any conditions that may be causing your missed or late periods.
Ready to start tracking your cycle?