Rest assured, you don’t have a bun in the oven.
That time of the month, riding the crimson wave, Aunt Flo – whatever you like to call it, our period is as annoying as it is vital for our health, and if you’re not trying to fall pregnant, it is actually kind of a welcome visitor every month.
The average women’s cycle lasts 28 days, meaning most of us have to suffer through abdominal pain and an increased risk of ruining our fave underwear about once a month. We know everything is in order when our period blood looks normal and when it arrives regularly; so when it doesn’t, it can be quite concerning – although irregular periods are actually very common.
According to clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California Amy Autry, “at least 30 per cent of women have irregular periods during their childbearing years.”
While there is no reason to freak out when your period is a few days late every now and then, you shouldn’t ignore missed periods or cycles that are a lot shorter or longer than 28 days on a regular basis.
There are a variety of reasons for irregular menstrual cycles, and while it’s definitely safest to speak to a doctor about your symptoms, chances are at least one of the following four reasons your period is late applies to you – and rest assured, none of these will result in a positive pregnancy test…
1. Health conditions
Chronic illnesses such as diabetes and celiac disease can have an impact on your menstrual cycle, as they can wreak havoc on your hormone production. Diabetics who experience frequent changes in blood sugar levels will inevitably experience hormonal imbalances leading to a late or irregular period.
Same goes for celiac disease, which is often accompanied by stomach aches, extreme bloating, and nausea. As celiac disease is an inflammation of the lining of the small intestines, which prevents your body from absorbing important nutrients, and stresses your system in the process, it too can interfere with your hormones, which ultimately impact on your menstrual cycle. So if you experience regular blood sugar swings resulting in shakiness and fatigue or often feel ill after consuming wheat products, speak to your doctor about getting tested.
2. Polycystic Ovaries
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition which causes your body to produce a disproportionate amount of male hormones, leading to an imbalance of oestrogen and testosterone levels. As a result, cysts are likely to grow on your ovaries, which can impact on ovulation, and therefore, your period.
According to gynacologist Alyssa Dweck “we’re seeing a lot more of this, although there are varying degrees. It can cause you to completely miss your period or just not menstruate regularly.”
PCOS symptoms include abdominal pain, increased hair growth in places like your chest and face, and fertility issues. An estimated eight to ten per cent of women are affected by PCOS, and while there is no cure, there are medications that improve symptoms, so see your GP if you’ve been experiencing any of the above.
3. Thyroid issues
One of the most common chronic diseases among women is a thyroid dysfunction resulting in the thyroid being either overactive or under-active. Your thyroid sits in your neck and is responsible for regulating your metabolism and several critical related bodily processes such as body temperature and energy levels.
When the thyroid produces too little or too much of those hormones, it can result in sudden weight gain or loss, fatigue, mood swings, and irregular periods.
It is estimated that about 60 per cent of those with a thyroid disease are unaware of it, as symptoms can be subtle and often blamed on stress or an over-hectic lifestyle. Since it is very easy to treat thyroid hyper- and hypofunction with medication, you shouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.
Stress can really wreak utter havoc on our health, both mentally and physically. It affects a part of our brain called the hypothalamus, which, among other things, controls our body temperature, hunger, and our periods.
When we experience stress over a prolonged period of time, the hypothalamus will decrease production of the hormone which tells our ovaries to produce eggs. This process prevents us from getting pregnant in stressful phases of our lives, which ironically often leads to even more stress for women already experiencing difficulties falling pregnant due to fertility issues.
If your life is so stressful it’s affecting your period, take it as a giant red flag that it’s time to slow down. Reevaluate your priorities, look at eliminating whatever it is that’s causing you to feel anxious, and try de-stressing activities like mindfulness exercizes to give your body a chance to reset its hormone levels. Chances are, your periods will return to normal once your life has, too.
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