A delayed period is not always a sign of pregnancy and can occur with many situations, like increased stress, hormonal changes or even excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol. Some women may also have a late period with intense physical activity, restrictive diets, or with improper birth control use.
Generally, this delay can last from a few days to 1 or 2 months. You should see your doctor if you are not pregnant and your period continues to be delayed for more than 3 months, as the cause should be identified and treated.
However, if you have a delayed period following unprotected sex, pregnancy is still a possibility. You should rule it out by completing a home pregnancy test which can be purchased at a pharmacy.
The most common causes of delayed menstruation are:
One of the main causes of a late period is pregnancy, as changes to hormonal levels prevent endometrial shedding which would usually lead to a period.
With pregnancy, a delayed period will usually occur with symptoms like abdominal bloating, cramps, excessive fatigue, sensitive breasts and darkening of the areola. Learn more about the early signs of pregnancy.
2. Excessive physical activity
Excessive physical activity can lead to hormonal changes. This commonly happens with athletes or people training intensely for a competitive sport. Persistently increased prolactin levels from intense exercise, for example, can lead to a delayed period. While regular exercise is important, it should not be excessive.
3. Restrictive diets
Some restrictive diets can lead to fluctuating hormone levels which can affect your menstrual cycle. Decreasing your intake forces the body to conserve nutrients for for important functions, which can lead to a delay or lack of period.
4. Abnormalities in the reproductive system
Reproductive system illnesses, like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome or uterine myomas, can lead to fluctuating sex hormones. This can cause a delay in your period.
5. Changes in the hypothalamus and hippocampus
The hypothalamus and hippocampus are located in the brain and are responsible for sex hormone regulation. Diseases that cause changes to these glands’s functioning can lead to irregular periods, which can come earlier or later than expected.
6. Continued use of birth control
The birth control pill or other birth control methods used continuously work by consistently releasing hormones without pauses. This blocks menstruation, although some women may notice scant bleeding occasionally on different days.
When menopause approaches, also known as perimenopause, it is normal for periods to become delayed and gradually taper off. Women who enter menopause at a younger age may not realize they are approaching this phase.
Learn more about other symptoms of menopause that you should monitor.
In the post-partum phase, menstruation usually returns once the woman stops breastfeeding. Nonetheless, it is still important for contraceptive methods to be used during this time to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
9. Stopping contraceptives
Some women who stop using contraceptives like the birth control pill, a hormonal implant or injections may notice that their period can take up to 6 months to return to a regular cycle. This is perfectly normal and is not of clinical concern.
10. Hormonal changes in adolescence
During adolescence, the endocrine system is continuing to develop and hormonal changes are common. The body is adapting to changes in hormone levels, which can impede with regular ovulation during some cycles. Many teens experience irregular periods or late periods as a result.
Adolescents who have reached 16 years of age and have still not had a period should consult a gynecologist. This phenomenon is medically referred to as primary amenorrhea, and it may be related to reproductive organ defects, like a vaginal septum or lack of uterus.
11. Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can trigger the release of cortisol in the blood. This hormone is involved in hypothalamus functioning and interferes with estrogen and progesterone release, which are hormones that are important for menstruation.
What to do if your period is delayed
If your period is late, the first step is to complete out a pregnancy test from the pharmacy. If you haven’t had a period for more than 3 months and you cannot identify the cause, you should go to a gynecologist so that he or she can identify the cause and treat the problem. In some cases, the use of medication is recommended to stimulate your period. Some people may even rely on cinnamon to induce a period - read more about if this method really works.
The doctor may order bloodwork to assess progesterone and prolactin levels, which may help to identify the reason for this delay and guide the most appropriate treatment.
Also, depending on what is causing your period delay, you may need to reduce the intensity of physical exercise, take it easy, avoid stress and maintain a varied and balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. These are all factors that contribute to a regular menstrual cycle.
It is also recommended that you see your doctor regularly to identify possible health problems or diseases such as polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, anorexia, bulimia, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, all which can cause changes to your menstrual cycle.
In the meantime, check out these teas for a late period that you can use to induce your period naturally.
Duration of a late period
A late period can be delayed for about 5 days to a maximum of 1 to 2 months. A delayed period that lasts for longer than 3 months can be a sign of amenorhea, or lack of menstruation. In these cases, of pregnancy has been rules out, the underlying cause should be investigated by a gynecologist.
What should I do if my period is late but my pregnancy test is negative?
Although pregnancy tests are highly reliable, it is possible to have a false negative result when the test is done too early, if the woman’s cycle is irregular, or if an ectopic pregnancy is occurring. Hormonal changes can also delay a period, even if cycles are usually regular.
How to regulate your menstrual cycle
There are certain measures that can help to prevent delayed periods and regulate the menstrual cycle, like:
- A healthy lifestyle, with regular physical exercise and a healthy and varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables;
- Taking the contraceptive pill, as it can help to regulate the menstrual cycle;
- Avoid extreme or restrictive diets, which, as well as doing harm to your health, end up making your menstrual cycle irregular;
- Follow the indicated treatment if you have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or thyroid disorders;
- Maintain a healthy weight - check out what your ideal weight should be
While these measures help to keep your cycles regular, you should still consult a doctor if you experience irregular periods.
When will my period come?
Enter your cycle information below to calculate when your period is due:
Read more about period symptoms that many women may or may not notice.