You consider yourself regular as far as your period goes. And then one day it doesn’t come as scheduled. You check the calendar to make sure you have the right dates. You don’t worry so much the first couple of days but then as more time passes you wonder if you could be pregnant. So you buy one of those home pregnancy tests and it is negative. You are not pregnant but you still don’t have your period. What gives?
This happened to me fairly recently. My cycle is usually every 25-28 days. I am fairly regular so when my period did not show up I waited a week and then called my gynecologist. They did a blood test to see if pregnancy was the cause. My test was negative. So then the quest began to figure out why my period was so delayed. My gynecologist first suggested that my cycle may be becoming irregular due to perimenopause. I wasn’t buying it. Although it seemed plausible as I am in my early forties, it seemed an abrupt change out of nowhere. So I pressed for a better explanation. And after having a sonogram it was determined that I had a benign ovarian cyst. This type of cyst can delay a period. On day 45 of my cycle I finally got a whopper of a period which lasted for about ten days. I was relieved when it finally came.
So let’s talk about what is considered normal as far as menstrual cycle length. You always start counting from the first day that you see blood and count the days forward until the first day of your next cycle. The literature is fairly consistent in saying that the normal menstrual cycle length is between 25-35 days. A cycle which is outside of this range may indicate that you are not ovulating. Other sources suggest that your menstrual cycle can vary from having a short cycle of 21 days to a long cycle of 40 days. The main thing to consider in all this is what is normal for you? If you usually get your period every 28 days and it doesn’t come by day 35 then it is time to investigate the cause starting with a pregnancy test.
So what are some of the possible reasons for a delayed or absent period?
As my gynecologist did point out, perimenopause can be one reason for irregular or absent periods. This usually begins sometime in your forties and can encompass as much as ten years before the official cessation of your period or menopause (which is defined as one year without having periods).
As found in my case, a functional ovarian cyst can also cause a delayed period. Other symptoms can include pain or aching in your lower belly and also bleeding when you are not having your period.
Thyroid problems can also cause your period to be late or even stop them from happening at all. Hyperthyroidism, the overactivity of the thyroid gland, results in the release of too much thyroid hormones into the bloodstream causing multiple physical symptoms. In addition to menstrual cycle irregularities a person suffering from hyperthyroidism may experience nervousness, irritability, a fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, weight loss, weak muscles and confusion.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is yet another cause for delayed or absent periods. PCOS is more common than not and affects as many as one in fifteen women. It is one of the leading causes for infertility and can also cause great irregularities with one’s menstrual cycle. Other symptoms associated with the hormonal imbalance of PCOS can include acne, weight gain, depression, thinning hair, facial and body hair, high blood pressure, or even type two diabetes.
- There are a host of other reasons why your period might be delayed other than those listed above or pregnancy. These causes can include the following: Stress, illness, being overweight, anorexia, some medications, jet-lag from travel, excessive exercise, breast feeding, fatigue, and inconsistent use of birth control pills.
The bottom line is that you know your body best. If you are normally regular with your menstrual cycle and your period is late by a week or more then this is the time to look for a cause. The first reason to rule out is pregnancy. Get a home pregnancy test or visit your gynecologist. If pregnancy is not the reason for a delay in getting your period then you can ask your doctor to begin investigating other medical causes. It is difficult not to worry or panic when your cycle is out of whack. To ease your worries it is a good idea to seek guidance from your doctor or health care provider.
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