Why Your Period is Late or Irregular - Doctor Explains!

Why Your Period is Late or Irregular

The irregularity of periods can be distressing, especially when you don’t know why this is occurring. 

Approximately 30% of women have irregular periods during
their fertile years, and whilst an irregular cycle is not usually a problem it
can occasionally signal health issues.

What Are Irregular Periods?

When a woman stops getting her period this condition is
called amenorrhoea. Primary amenorrhoea is when a young woman, usually an
adolescent, never had her period, to begin with during puberty. Secondary
amenorrhoea is when a woman who has had her period in the past stops getting
her monthly period for three or more months.

Having a regular, moderately pain-free period each month is
always a good indication that the female hormones are in balance and the
reproductive system is working properly. Women with a regular cycle, and normal
ovarian function release one egg about every 25 to 28 days. The average time
between periods varies depending on the woman, especially during puberty and
the peri-menopausal phase. However, most women will have their periods once a
month providing they are in good health.

Common Reasons For Missed & Irregular Periods


Pregnancy obviously stops the menstrual period. A period
occurs when the uterine lining fails to implant a fertilised egg and comes
away. Pregnancy can occur even if you are using contraception. You can still
experience irregular spotting and symptoms of PMT, such as breast tenderness
and cramps, which many women mistake as the beginning of their period. The only
way this can be confirmed is to do a pregnancy test.

Stress Levels

Chronic stress or even short-term anxiety can wreak havoc
with your hormone balance and can cause a missed period or an irregular cycle.
Other severe stress conditions such as dieting, heavy exercise training or
intense emotional events are all situations that can induce amenorrhoea or
irregular periods.

Extreme Weight Loss and Low Body Weight

When your body mass index (BMI) falls below 18 you can start
to miss your period due to having too little body fat. Body fat is vital in
allowing you to have a regular cycle. One complication therefore of a low
BMI is often a low circulating oestrogen level which is essential for body and
especially bone health.


Although moderate exercise is very important for general
health, mood regulation, sleep and maintaining a healthy body weight, too much
exercise can also put excessive pressure on your adrenal, thyroid and pituitary
glands. This can certainly cause irregular periods.

Poor Diet

A poor diet that is low in nutrients, antioxidants and
probiotic foods, yet high in stimulants can affect the adrenal and thyroid
glands. A diet high in intake of sugar, fats and artificial additives or
pesticides, is linked with thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue that can raise
cortisol. Excess cortisol hinders the optimal function of many of the other
essential hormones such as the sex hormones.

Thyroid Disorders

Some reports show that thyroid disorders may be one of the
leading causes of missed periods, with roughly 15% of amenorrhoea patients
experiencing thyroid irregularities. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a
thyroid condition that can cause light or absent periods. Hypothyroidism (under
active thyroid) can cause heavy or irregular periods.

Being Unwell

Seasonal illnesses such as colds and the flu and certain
viruses can all affect your cycle the same way that stress and anxiety can. If
you have been prescribed a low-dose birth control pill, certain antibiotics may
interfere with its absorption and result in irregular bleeding.

Ongoing Hormone Imbalances & Disorders

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone imbalance in
women that negatively impacts ovulation. PCOS results in altered levels of sex
hormones, including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This can in turn,
result in many symptoms including an irregular menstrual cycle. As you are
approaching the menopause (the average age is 51 in Australia) this can also
account for missed periods or irregular periods. It is also possible to go
through premature menopause prior to the age of 40 although this is more

Birth Control Pill

The pill can make your periods lighter or cause you to miss
periods or have less frequent period or even no periods at all. The
contraceptive pill works by stopping ovulation and interrupting the normal
menstrual cycle. If you forget to take your pill this may cause irregular
bleeding which may resemble the beginning of your period, especially if you are
taking a very low dosage of the contraceptive pill.

Should I Be Concerned About My Period Being Irregular?

A missed or irregular period may be the first indication
that you have a condition that needs medical attention. Bleeding during your
cycle may be due to other causes, such as a cervical polyp, a vaginal skin
disorder, a bacterial infection or pelvic inflammatory disease. Having an
irregular cycle can also make it more difficult for you to get pregnant. There
are tests that can be done to determine whether or not you are ovulating.

However, it is crucial to exclude an unlikely cancer of the
cervix or uterus. If it has been more than three months since you have missed a
period or you are experiencing constant irregularities with your cycle and you
are concerned about your symptoms, it is important to follow this up with your
doctor. You will most likely be screened for polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid
disease and other conditions that may be linked to irregular periods.

Treatment For Irregular Periods

You will need to have a cervical screening test and most
likely a pelvic ultrasound. The occasional irregular period or absent period
per year is usually no cause for any concern, but any more than that then you
should see your doctor make sure that a serious health condition is not the

As the rule goes with most health concerns, if something
doesn’t feel right, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for help. 

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