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Causes of a Missed or Late Period without Pregnancy
on Jan 26, 2013
by Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD
A missed or late period can be attributed to a variety of reasons without being pregnant, some of them simple temporary issues and other more serious issues.
The medical term for a missed period is secondary amenorrhea. Not to be confused with primary amenorrhea which is the term for someone who hasn’t yet had their first period. A missed or late period can be attributed to a variety of reasons without being pregnant, some of them simple temporary issues and other more serious issues. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here
The most common cause of a missed period (barring pregnancy) is stress. Whether you are a few days late, or have missed entire months, stress could be at the root of all your problems. Being stressed out isn’t just an emotional issue; from a fertility point of view, it causes your body to produce less (GnRH) which is the hormone that causes ovulation. Without ovulation, our cycles become disjointed and mixed up, causing a missed period. Stress can also do the opposite and bring periods on early – but that’s another matter entirely!
Not feeling stressed doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering from stress – as this chronic overworker can well vouch for. Major events in your life will put unknowing stress on your body, such as the loss of a loved one, change in employment, geographical relocation, major life changing event, financial or emotional difficulties. If this is the case, do not worry. Sort out your emotional well being first and your body will realign itself back into a regular rhythm.
Even just something as non-serious as the common cold can play havoc with your body’s natural rhythm, again this is nothing to worry about. If you have other health issues though it is always best to mention this to your Doctor, and they can inform you whether this is to be expected or is symptomatic of another problem. Amenorrhea can only be diagnosed after you have missed three consecutive periods. Common disruptions to periods are caused by the following.
Increased Prolactin – This hormone is secreted when you breastfeed and is why you don’t have any periods when you lactate. Sometimes your body produces this by accident. It usually causes nipple discharge, but can be treated.
If you have another illness then sometimes the medication you take for it will affect your menstrual cycle, this includes anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, oral corticosteroids, and chemotherapy amongst many others.
Weight Loss: If you are underweight then you might not possess enough body fat to produce oestrogen. Female athletes who are very muscular, with low body fat often start their periods later than others and commonly miss them. If you have an eating disorder you may skip periods, whilst others stop having them entirely.
Look at the contraceptives you are taking – you should have been informed by your doctor about how these will affect your periods. Contraceptives work in a variety of different ways from limiting your body’s ovulation cycle by stopping the release of an egg to thickening cervical mucus to make sperm less able to traverse the reproductive tract. Many of these can cause a delaying or stopping of periods which could be a cause for a missed or late period without pregnancy.
Sometimes it sneaks up on us a bit too quickly, whether you are peri-menopause, which is a transition phase or menopausal, your periods will begin to be lighter, then you will start missing them before they finally stop. Menopause can happen at any time, but tends to occur from your late forties onwards. The average onset is 51 years. If you are older, a missed or late period could be attributed to menopause so it is advisable to seek a doctor’s help in such cases.
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Dr. Prabha Sahgal MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and subspecialty board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Sahgal holds a B.S. degree from MIT in molecular biology and currently serves on the ConceiveEasy board of directors.