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Occasional Missed Periods: Causes You Should Know About

A woman in NYC wondering why she has occasional missed periods. Your period is late…again.

Even if you are among the many women whose cycles are usually regular, having a late period or isolated missed period is common and is generally not a cause for concern. There a several reasons why this can occur.

Our highly trained gynecologists at Maiden Lane Medical in Manhattan, NY have helped ease the stress and anxiety many women feel when they miss a period. Schedule an appointment with us today!

 

What Should I Do First If I Have a Late or Missed Period?

If you are sexually active with a male partner and have a late or missed period, you should first take an at-home pregnancy test. In most cases, a test purchased at your local drugstore will work perfectly fine. Typically, you can be assured that you are not pregnant if your pregnancy test is negative and your period is more than a few days late.

However, if your test is positive, it is important for you to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist.

Additional Reasons for Missed Period

There are a variety of additional possible reasons why your period might be late or skip an entire cycle. These can be due to:

  • Changes to diet/activity levels (lifestyle changes)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Medical conditions
  • Recent illness
  • Medication use
  • Immunizations
  • Significant amounts of physical or even mental stress

Below you will find the most common causes for the occasional missed period.

Stress

Stress can have a major impact on your body and can cause you to miss a period. Your brain makes the first in a series of hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. However, stress can trigger your body, forcing it into “survival mode.” This causes your body to shut down all non-essential bodily functions, including your reproductive system.

You may experience an irregular menstrual cycle while experiencing prolonged stress, whether it is physical or psychological. Since each woman is different, the way stress affects your individual menstrual cycle will be based on your unique brain and body.

Changes to Activity Level

Exercise is beneficial to your overall health. However, your brain can interpret increased, strenuous, or excessive exercise (especially when coupled with low body fat) as “stress.” This can trigger your fight or flight response, disrupting your cycle and leading to missed or late periods. Changes to the amount of exercise you do can also cause changes in your hormones, including your thyroid hormones.

A woman is relieved after finding out why her period is sometimes late when traveling. Changes Your Weight

If you have rapid weight loss or weight gain, you will likely notice some form of menstrual irregularity. Additionally, being over or underweight can affect how much estrogen your body produces, leading to changes in your menstrual cycle. Both too much and too little estrogen can cause your monthly periods to be irregular or even stop.

Eating disorders resulting in weight loss can disrupt your normal cycle. If you have an eating disorder, there is help available.

 

Medication

There are many medications that can cause your period to be absent or delayed because they affect the various hormones within your body. These can include:

Birth control pills prevent pregnancy in a few different ways, including:

  • Stopping ovulation
  • Thickening the cervical mucus (preventing sperm from entering your reproductive tract)
  • Thinning your uterine lining (endometrium)

During your first few months on the pill, your uterine lining becomes thinner over, and many women have irregular spotting or bleeding. However, once the uterine lining has thinned out, many women notice that they have much lighter and shorter periods and sometimes it stops coming altogether.

This is normal and should not be a cause for concern. In fact, it is one of the benefits of being on the pill. Once you stop taking it, your period should return to its normal pattern with time.

Travel and Your Sleep Quality

Your reproductive hormones and melatonin levels can both have an impact on your ovulation and periods. Frequent travel across time zones or poor sleep quality can affect your menstrual cycle.

Age

The average age for a woman to enter menopause in the U.S. is 51 years. Early menopause (premature ovarian insufficiency) occurs when your ovaries stop working before you turn 40.

When your ovaries stop functioning the way that they should, they are unable to produce enough estrogen. With such low levels of estrogen, you will begin to experience symptoms of menopause.

When Should I See a Doctor?

You should see a doctor if infrequent periods become a pattern. If you frequently skip entire cycles or go 3 or more months without a period, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can evaluate your abnormal periods for any underlying medical conditions, as well as discuss treatment options.

Our experts at Maiden Lane Medical, located in Manhattan, NY, can help you determine why your menstrual periods are irregular and provide treatment if needed. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Medically Reviewed By

Fernando Mariz, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology