You’re waiting for your period... You wait a few days... a few more, but it’s still not here. You might be a bit concerned. Where is it and why is it late?
Firstly, take a deep breath. Our bodies are complex, and they’re not like clockwork - some variation in cycle timing is not uncommon. This can be especially true if you're new to having a period, or if you’re close to menopause, breastfeeding or have recently stopped hormonal contraception.
Also, things like stress, diet and certain illnesses can also affect your cycle timing. And a window of 7-9 days difference between cycles is quite normal for adults.
Some common reasons for late periods
If you have a consistent menstrual cycle (it’s almost always the same length every month), a late period can be alarming.
First thoughts are often:
Am I pregnant?
If you had unprotected heterosexual sex or there’s a chance you came into contact with sperm in your fertile window (the days leading up to and day of ovulation), it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test. You can take a test two weeks after ovulation (8-9 days after you were meant to get your period). If you’re not sure when you ovulated, plan the test for two weeks after your last sexual activity.
If you get a negative result, but your period is still late a week later, it’s worth taking another test. Sometimes tests can return a false negative in the early days (if hormone levels are still too low to be detected by the test).
Other things to consider are:
Have I lost or gained weight recently?
Sudden changes in weight can impact hormone balance in your body and sometimes lead to a late or absent period.
This can happen if you’re eating a highly calorie-restricted diet, experiencing an eating disorder (like anorexia or bulimia), lose a lot of weight in a short space of time, or undergo intense physical exercise.
Do I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS is a condition where there’s a hormonal imbalance happening that affects ovulation (the release of an egg). If you don’t ovulate then you don’t usually have a period.
It’s quite common for folks with PCOS to experience late periods (or miss periods altogether).
If you think this might be affecting you, it can help to connect with your doctor. They can help to find out exactly what is happening for your body, and to put together a treatment plan.
Am I super stressed at the moment?
High levels of stress cause changes to your body's hormone balance and this can lead to late periods. If you’ve been through a time of high stress, your body might decide it’s not a good time to get pregnant and skip cycles during the stressful time.
Am I using hormonal contraceptives?
Most hormonal contraceptives work by stopping ovulation from happening. And, if you don’t ovulate, you generally won’t have a period. Whilst some contraceptives create a false period (withdrawal bleed), if you skip this week or are on one that doesn’t do so, then you might just have light spotting or no period at all.
If you track your periods each month, you’ll know pretty quickly if your period is late and can take quick action to find out why.
Download the YourCycle app for personalised information on everything to do with your cycle. It’s completely free and always will be.