Most of us have or will experience a late or missed period at some point during our menstruating years, Moxette, and there are a heap of reasons why it can happen. And, whilst we might think it's a welcome relief from the cramps and mood swings, sometimes it's best to suss things out. Here are some of the culprits.
'The silent killer', they say. According to Sydney-based Obstetrician and Gynaeocologist, Dr. Nicole Stamatopoulos, it can kill your periods, too. "Your periods are regulated by chemicals in your brain from the hypothalamus and pituitary", she explains. "They're also responsible for other chemicals including ones related to stress - they're all related! So, if your stress hormones are high, this can affect your periods, too".
But don't fret, Moxette - if your awol period is stress related, you can get it back. The trick is to keep your level of stress hormones (cortisol) low. Life can be tough and sometimes it gets all too much to deal, we know! It's important to do your best to stress-less and find ways that work for you to cope with the tough stuff; otherwise, when you're stressed, your body releases cortisol. Too much of it basically shuts down the production of your sex hormones, which in turn can stunt your period.
If you need a hand with coping mechanisms or are struggling to get on top of stress yourself, check in with a GP or a trusted professional like a therapist or counsellor.
2. YOU'RE MAKING A MINI ME
That's right, Moxette - a missed period might mean that you're pregnant. Most doctors recommend you wait two weeks after your missed period to take a pregnancy test in order to get a more accurate read, but if you do suspect you're pregnant and want to be super sure, best to see your doc.
3. YOU MAY HAVE POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)
This literally means that you have lots of little cysts on your ovaries. They're relatively harmless and the condition shouldn't be causing you any discomfort, but it can contribute to hormone imbalances, which can in turn affect your periods (and sometimes, your ability to fall pregnant, if that's something you're wanting to do).
Symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, skin breakouts, and irregular periods, to name a few. This one is virtually impossible to self-diagnose, so we'd recommend you see a trusted GP and ask for a referral to a gyno or specialist.
4. YOU'RE EXPERIENCING MENOPAUSE
Whilst the average age of menopause in Australia is 51 years (it usually occurs anywhere between the ages of 45 - 60), it's not impossible for younger people to experience a premature onset of menopause - which means that your period permanently stops before the age of 40 (the chances of this happening, according to Dr. Stamatopoulos, is around 1%).
Early menopause can be caused by genetics, surgery (i.e. if you've had your ovaries removed), chemotherapy or due to an unknown issue. Either way, it can be an emotional (and physical) rollercoaster.
But don't fret; there are treatments options available and so again, if you think you're in this camp, please consult with your doctor.
5. YOU'RE DOING TOO MUCH EXERCISE
Being a lean machine feels amazing; and while it's important to exercise regularly for general good physical and mental health, if you're burning a heap more calories than you're consuming and ultimately your body fat gets too low, this can send your body into a state known as hypothalamic amenorrhea - which is basically your brain telling your body that it's not a good time to have a baby = AWOL periods! Best keep an eye on this, Moxette, as a prolonged condition may lead to things like infertility and osteoporosis.
6. SUDDEN EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS OR WEIGHT GAIN
Put simply, excessively restricting your calorie intake can stop the production of hormones needed for ovulation. On the flip side, if you are overweight or obese, then your body can produce too much oestrogen which can also stop your periods. If you think you're suffering from either severe weight loss or weight gain, it's best is to see a doctor, dietician or psychiatrist to help combat any eating relating disorders or underlying conditions.
Most commonly the oral pills or the implanted type; can sometimes cause your periods to become very light, or not come at all, particularly in the early stages of taking the medication, but Dr. Stamatopoulos stresses that it depends on what the reason was for going on the pill in the first place.
"If you had regular periods before going on the pill and it was purely for contraception purposes, your period should return to normal within a cycle or two", she says.
"But if you went on the pill because your periods were irregular, it's likely that it will just go back to being what it was like before taking the medication".
For more about how various contraceptives can affect your period, check out this post , or consult with your Doctor.
Regular periods are a pretty positive sign that your body is functioning normally and doing all the stuff it should be. If you're experiencing infrequent or completely absent periods, or, if you suspect that something is a little off with your cycle, please consult your doctor or a trusted medical professional.