Every month, millions of women ask themselves the same question, "Why is my period late?" without having a straightforward answer. Menstrual cycle timing is influenced by many lifestyle and bodily factors. While a late period could be a cause of a greater health concern or even pregnancy, there are many cases where it's less concerning. Let’s discuss these causes and find some solutions together.
Why Is My Period Late?
The menstrual cycle can be a rollercoaster ride. Besides being an emotionally and physically taxing time of the month that determines a woman’s health, there are also several factors that can cause its irregularities: Here’s a few:
Stress can affect your hormones
Stress is often the culprit for many things that go astray in our body, and your period isn’t an exception to that rule. When your stress levels (aka cortisol) increase and are sustained for a period, this can lead to delayed periods because your hormone pathways are affecting each other. Even when you get your period, stress can cause you to have more bloating, painful cramping, and a heavier flow. It's natural for humans to get stressed, but our bodies don't know the difference between a stress situation that could be better managed with a breathing exercise and one that we have absolutely no control over. Stress is bad for your body, whatever the kind, and it rarely has positive consequences.
Most forms of birth control are hormonal, meaning they affect your estrogen and progesterone levels by restricting the production of them. If your body stops producing hormones necessary for ovulation, it's no surprise that your flow will be irregular. With other contraceptive methods such as the IUD, it's possible to have no bleeding at all.
Two of the most common reasons for irregular periods are Polycystic Overy Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism. PCOS occurs when women have too many male hormones in their bodies and although we can’t cure it, we can manage it. The problems created within the ovaries can lead to late or missed periods. In fact, infrequent or irregular periods are one of three criteria used to diagnose PCOS.
Hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones, can produce heavy, irregular or absent periods because it disrupts the estrogen and progesterone that is being produced in a woman’s body.
Of course, late periods may indicate a pregnancy. The best way to know for sure is to give your primary care physician a visit, and go from there.
What Should My Period Feel Like?
All that is “standard” about a period is the cycle itself, otherwise, everything else is a unique experience, including the symptoms. It's possible you'll feel some or maybe even all of these during your cycle:
- Mood Swings
- Back Pain or tender breasts
- Swollen or tender breasts
These symptoms of premenstrual syndrome usually begin a week or two before the period, and about 90% of women say they experience PMS symptoms. Thankfully, there are vitamins that can reduce period pain and make your time of the month feel less like a prison sentence.
How To Get Regular Periods Naturally
If your period is late, it's important not to jump to conclusions about your cycle and consider all the factors instead. One way to predict how your period is going to be that month is to remember how your lifestyle was the 30 days prior—your period is sort of like your report card of how well you took care of your body and mind the previous month. So yes, your lifestyle matters! Paying attention to factors in your control can help ensure you have a regular period:
Research shows that those who actively engage in physical activity have a lower risk of experiencing intense period cramps. The myth that you shouldn’t work out on your period has also been debunked and because exercise reduces stress, it's even encouraged. It’s still important, however, to listen to your body and allow for movement in a way that isn’t overbearing or too rigorous. If you’re feeling tired during your cycle, you can still engage in exercise by opting for a pilates or yoga class. Sometimes low-impact movements have the greatest impact!
Improve your Quality of Life
Managing your stress, sleep levels, and mental health are an important part of a healthy body and mind. As a result, a regular period indicates health. Pay attention to moments when
you’re not feeling good, happy, or healthy and key into what you could change. Often, these feelings are a good indication of how your period will be.
Increase Intake of Vitamin D
Besides opting for plant-derived supplements that can reduce period cramps and get rid of bloating, upping your consumption of Vitamin D can also help make your time of the month more bearable. Simple ways to do this are spending time in the sun, consuming more fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and swapping out your egg whites for the whole egg.
Conclusion: late periods don't necessarily mean something's wrong
All women (including me!) have experienced late periods, period pain, PMS symptoms, or all of the above—so remember that although it might feel like it at times, you’re never alone. When your period is late, it doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong but also isn’t something you should normalize. Pay attention to what your body’s telling you at the time and, if symptoms persist, it might be worth talking with your gynecologist.