For people who menstruate, a late period can be a source of worry and anxiety.
Whether you're trying to conceive, or simply trying to keep track of your reproductive health, understanding the factors that can impact your menstrual cycle is an important step towards maintaining overall wellness.
While it's natural to assume that a late period is a sign of pregnancy, there are actually a variety of reasons why your menstrual cycle might be off schedule.
Some of these reasons are relatively harmless and easily treatable, while others may require some attention from a medical professional.
Let's explore some of the most common reasons why your period could be late or missed.
Is it normal to miss a period?
Missing a period from time to time is actually very normal. In fact, research suggests that around 9% of menstruating people will miss at least 1 period each year .
There are a variety of reasons for missed or late periods. Some of these include stress, rapid weight loss or changes, medication or medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders and more.
Generally speaking, the occasional late or missed period is nothing to worry about, it is simply a natural part of the menstrual cycle.
However, if you're worried about your period being a no-show, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.
What is the average cycle length?
Every person's menstrual cycle is unique, and the length of periods can vary from person to person. The typical menstrual cycle length is between 24-38 days, with 28 days being the most common.
It's not uncommon for menstrual cycles to change over time. There are many factors that can affect the length of your menstrual cycle, including stress, illness, pregnancy, and menopause .
Why is my period late on hormonal contraception?
It's not uncommon for hormonal contraception, such as birth control pills, patches, injections, or hormonal IUDs, to affect your period. Hormonal contraception works by altering your hormonal balance, and this can cause changes in your normal menstrual cycle too.
Some possible reasons for irregular or missed periods while using hormonal contraception include :
Certain illnesses or medical conditions can also affect your menstrual cycle, and hormonal contraception can sometimes make you more vulnerable to these effects.
If you've been sick or have an underlying medical condition, it could be a factor in your late period.
Hormonal contraception can affect the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your body, which can cause fluctuations in your menstrual cycle. This can sometimes lead to a delayed period.
The birth control pill works by using synthetic hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation.
However, if a person experiences high levels of stress, it can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body, potentially leading to a missed period.
Skipping pills or doses
If a person misses a pill, the hormonal balance in the body can be disrupted, which can cause a delay or absence of ovulation. This can lead to a missed period or a lighter-than-usual period.
How much delay is normal for your period?
The average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, but it can range from 24-38 days. Therefore, a delay of a few days or even up to a week is considered a healthy cycle.
However, if you have been experiencing delays of more than a week or have irregular cycles, it is best to consult a doctor to determine if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
If you are sexually active and your period is late, it is recommended to take a pregnancy test as soon as possible.
A home pregnancy test can detect the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in urine within a week of a missed period, although some tests can detect it even earlier.
If you have irregular periods or are unsure when to expect your period, it's recommended to wait at least 2 weeks after having sex before taking a pregnancy test to ensure accuracy.
Kin's Conceiving Essentials include everything you need when it comes to conceiving. This kit includes Kin's Pregnancy Test and Ovulation Test as well as our best-selling prenatal range, to help make your pregnancy journey easier.
If you have a missed period, but have a negative pregnancy test, there are a few other things that could be at play.
The most common causes for a late period
Late periods are extremely common for many women. The most common reasons for a late period include :
One of the most common causes of a missed or late period is pregnancy. If you are sexually active and your period is late, it's important to take a pregnancy test to rule out or confirm pregnancy as the cause.
High levels of stress can disrupt your cycle and cause a delay in your period.
Significant changes in body weight, such as weight gain or weight loss, can disrupt menstrual cycles. This is because oestrogen is stored in fat so, for example, rapid weight loss can decrease your oestrogen levels, which will disrupt your cycle.
Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders, can cause a late period.
Certain medications, such as hormonal birth control or antidepressants, can cause changes in your cycle and lead to a late period.
Overexertion or excessive exercise can cause a delay in your menstrual cycle. It is important to get regular exercise but too much can disrupt your body's hormone levels, particularly causing an influx of cortisol.
Commonly known as the stress hormone, cortisol can wreak havoc on the delicate balance of hormones needed for menstruation, potentially leading to a late or missed period.
Menopause is the time when a woman stops having menstrual periods, and it usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55.
Perimenopause is the transitional period before menopause when a woman's hormone levels begin to fluctuate, and it can cause changes in cycle regularity.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
This is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries and can cause a late or skipped period.
The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism and can impact the menstrual cycle. Thyroid diseases such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause menstrual irregularities.
This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Coeliac disease can cause malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle.
A chronic condition can impact the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which can lead to hormonal imbalances and menstrual irregularities.
Is there a way to regulate your period?
There is a science to learning and regulating your cycle, but fortunately, it isn't overly complicated. While periods will never be 100% predictable, there are a few simple steps you can take to get your cycle back into a rhythm.
There are several ways to regulate your period including :
Hormonal birth control
This is one of the most common methods used to regulate periods. Hormonal birth control contains hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, making periods more regular and lighter.
Kin’s pill subscription is the easier way to keep your cycle regular. This handy service connects you with an Australian GP, where you undergo a text-based consult.
Our doctors can answer any and all of your contraceptive pill questions and if the pill is right for you, they'll be able to create a prescription plan for you.
And, your pill will be shipped to your door on time so you'll never have to worry about running out or heading to the doctor's office for another prescription. You'll also have access to unlimited doctor consults for anything you need when it comes to contraception — all day, any day.
Progestin-only birth control
If you cannot take oestrogen for any reason, progestin-only birth control pills, implants, or injections may be an option to regulate your period.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Hormonal and copper IUDs can help regulate periods, making them lighter and less painful.
Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and avoiding smoking and alcohol can all help regulate your cycle. You might also consider adding a supplement into the mix, like Kin's Hormone Harmony.
Containing a curated blend of natural ingredients, based on traditional Western Herbal Medicine (WMH) use, these ingredients can help regulate menstrual cycles and balance your moods as well as assisting in reducing period pain and muscle cramps.
Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce heavy bleeding and cramping during periods. It's important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine which method may be best for you, based on your individual health needs and preferences.
Image credit: Getty Images