What Causes a Missed Period?

There are multiple reasons as to why a female may not get her usual period during the month or why the period may stop altogether. The majority of females have their menses at an interval of around 28 days; however, it’s quite common to have longer or shorter cycles ranging from 22 to 38 days. The causes of missing a period may range from pregnancy and stress to being obese and reaching menopause.

What Are the Causes of Missed Period?

1. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the most common reason of missing a period. You may be pregnant in case you are active sexually and you miss a period. It may also happen in case of failure of the birth control method you are utilizing to prevent pregnancy.

It may be the case that your period is simply late; hence, you can wait for a couple of days. If they still don’t arrive, then you may take a home pregnancy test to confirm your pregnancy.

2. Stress

Stress can cause multiple unpleasant adverse effects such as weight gain, acne, headaches apart from affecting the menstrual cycle. Stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are secreted by the body while you are stressed whether emotionally or physically. Due to the raised levels of stress hormones, essential functions of the body such as blood circulation to muscles and oxygen supply to lungs is increased whereas nonessential bodily functions such as reproductive and digestive system are slowed down or stopped temporarily. Hence, stress is one of the causes of missed period.

Avoid stress by ensuring enough time for relaxation. Doing regular exercises such as yoga, swimming and running may help you reduce your stress. Breathing exercises are also helpful.

3. Weight Changes

Sudden or excessive loss of weight, being underweight and low consumption of calories can result in stopping of your periods. When you restrict your intake of calories severely your body stops producing the hormones that are required for ovulation. Estrogen is also not produced by your body that is required for building the lining of the uterus. The similar thing happens in disorders of eating such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, in which the levels of estrogen falls too low.

Being obese or overweight or gaining excessive weight in short duration also affects the menstrual cycle adversely. In case you are obese, an excess quantity of estrogen may be produced by your body. Due to this you may not ovulate for many months or your uterine lining may overgrow, becoming unstable. This results in missed or irregular periods.

You may be referred to a dietitian if your BMI is less than 18.5 (underweight) or 30 and above (obese) and your periods are affected. The dietitian may advise how to lose or regain weight safely.

4. Birth Control Medicines

You may miss your period quite often in case you are on a birth control medicine. This should not cause any concern. Hormonal contraceptives (pill and patch) stop ovulation, which implies that there will be no period. However, the monthly bleeding that happens while on the contraceptive pills is actually the withdrawal bleeding, which is caused due to the decline in hormones by taking the placebo pills of your pack. Though sometimes, the hormones are so much suppressed by the birth control pills that there is either very light period or no period. Hence, contraceptive pill is one of the causes of missed period.

5. Menopause

Females start missing their periods as they approach menopause. This happens because the levels of estrogen start decreasing and ovulation becomes irregular. After menopause, periods in a female stop completely. The average age at which menopause occurs is 51. However, it can occur anywhere between 45 and 54 years. Apart from menstrual cycle changes, there are other symptoms of menopause that you may experience, including night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and sleeping difficulties.

6. PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

PCOS is characterized by presence of many fluid-filled small sacs in the ovaries, which are follicles that contain an immature egg. These eggs don’t mature and ovulation doesn’t happen. Apart from missed periods, other symptoms of PCOS include acne, excessive hair growth, infertility and gaining weight. Your physician may perform a blood test for checking your hormonal levels if you suspect PCOS as the cause of your missed periods.

7. Disorder of the Thyroid Gland

Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid gland may result in less frequent and lighter periods along with rapid heartbeat, weight loss, trouble sleeping and increased sweating. Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland may result in less frequent but heavier periods along with fatigue, weight gain, hair loss and dry skin.

8. Excessive Exercise

Excessive exercise is one of the causes of missed period. Though doing exercise is healthy, when it is done excessively (and you also restrict calories to shed weight), not enough estrogen is produced by your body for ovulation. Some women, including gymnasts, professional athletes and ballet dancers are at an increased risk of developing amenorrhea (characterized by missed period for 3 or more months at a stretch). Some signs of doing excess exercise are extreme or rapid weight loss, decreased physical performance, or when you force yourself to exercise even during illness, severe weather or injury.

You should slow down a little and gain some weight if required and things will start improving. Professional athletes may get benefit from visiting a sports medicine specialist. They may advise you regarding ways to maintaining your athletic performance without disturbing your menstrual cycle.

9. Breastfeeding

In case you are lactating or breastfeeding, you may miss your period as prolactin-a hormone which causes the production of breast milk, suppresses ovulation. However, it doesn’t imply that you can’t conceive. Keep in mind that ovulation happens before your period occurs. Hence, you should use birth control while breastfeeding if you don’t want to get pregnant. Period generally returns within 6 to 8 weeks after you wean your child. 

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