Menstrual delay: the 10 (+1) most frequent causes

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Philippe Gloaguen
@philippegloaguen
Author and references

Contents

  • 1 Menstrual delay and regularity of the cycle 
  • 2 Menstrual delay due to pregnancy
  • 3 Menstrual delay due to stress
  • 4 Menstrual delay due to weight changes
  • 5 Menstrual delay due to polycystic ovary syndrome
  • 6 Menstrual delay due to thyroid dysfunction 
  • 7 Menstrual delay due to irregular sleep 
  • 8 Menstrual delay for menopause and perimenopause 
  • 9 Menstrual delay and competitive sport 
  • 10 Menstrual delay for drugs 
  • 11 Menstrual delay for contraceptive pill
  • 12 Menstrual delay due to flu
  • 13 Menstrual delay due to pregnancy: what to do 
  • 14 Menstrual delay, but not pregnant: how to behave 

Although it always generates a pinch of anxiety, delayed menstruation is considered quite normal by doctors, even for those who tend to have a regular cycle. If you are looking for a pregnancy obviously it is taken as a signal that one's desire for motherhood has come true. If not, a delay in menstruation can be scary. "What if I were pregnant without meaning to?". However, it is not certain that the cause is a baby on the way: the reasons are many. Let's see the 10 most common, in addition to the delay due to pregnancy. 



Menstrual delay and regularity of the cycle 

However, a premise is fundamental: the concept of delay is closely linked to the regularity of our menstrual cycle. If we are punctual, even one day makes the difference. On the contrary, if you are very high (one month lasts 26 days, the next 32, just to give an example), understanding if you are actually late becomes much more complex. Each of us knows our own body and, consequently, knows how to understand how significant the delay can be. 


Menstrual delay due to pregnancy

When trying to have a baby, you look at your calendar and your fertility with anxiety and trepidation, obviously hoping that menstruation just doesn't show up. We are aware that that delay may not be causal, but it is the first wonderful "alarm bell" that the goal has been achieved. A couple of days late is already enough to take a pregnancy test, even if most of us do it already on the day when our period was due (patience is not the virtue of someone who wants to become a mother). Among other things, there are very early tests on the market that can be done a few days before the menstrual flow. Some mothers already suffer from the classic ailments of pregnancy even before the delay.


Menstrual delay due to stress

It is perhaps the most common reason behind delayed menstruation when not pregnant. The hectic life, a period of very heavy work, a bereavement have consequences on the whole organism, including hormones. Stress negatively affects gonadotropin production, which delays or prevents ovulation. And therefore, “cascading”, the whole cycle is affected. 

Menstrual delay due to weight changes

Being of normal weight is also very important for your reproductive health. Have you ever thought that the balance also has an influence on the menstrual cycle? That's it. The two extremes (excess weight or thinness) are not good for you because they play an important role in ovulation and therefore throughout the cycle. It is for this reason that those who want a baby must start from a normal and correct weight. In addition, those with eating disorders often see menstruation disappear for a long time. 


Menstrual delay due to polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine disorder characterized by an enlargement of the ovaries, the presence of ovarian cysts and some endocrinological and metabolic dysfunctions (for example, insulin resistance). Among its symptoms there are also menstrual disorders, such as irregularity, absence of menstruation for several months, few or long periods. If accompanied by other signals, the delay could therefore be a sign of this syndrome which is not always easy to diagnose: several tests are needed, including hormonal tests, blood sugar, insulin, ultrasound etc.

Menstrual delay due to thyroid dysfunction 

If the thyroid gland works poorly (hypothyroidism) or too much (hyperthyroidism), the reproductive system is inevitably affected. This organ is in fact responsible for metabolism and regulates the production of hormones. If its functioning is not perfect, then a menstrual delay could occur. Occasionally it is okay to undergo some tests to evaluate thyroid function.


Menstrual delay due to irregular sleep 

Sleeping well and at least 7 hours a night is also very important for reproductive health. Those who have insomnia or work in an activity that involves shifts (for example, nurses, doctors or those who work in factories) could have completely “stoned” menstrual cycles and therefore experience apparently unjustified delays. 

Menstrual delay for menopause and perimenopause 

Menopause coincides with the time when a woman ends her fertile period. The cycle disappears when the woman's ovarian reserve runs out: each of us is born with an unlimited supply of oocytes that gradually decreases when, every month, one is released. The average age of menopause is 50 years, but it is a variable event: for some it arrives early, immediately after the age of 40. Perimenopause is the period preceding menopause during which some signs begin to occur, such as the menstrual flow that delays or even skips.


Menstrual delay and competitive sport 

Very intense physical activity, such as that practiced at a competitive level, can cause changes in the menstrual cycle, such as irregularity or, in extreme cases, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Don't worry though. This happens if you are not carefully monitored by a good athletic trainer. Always rely on expert people. 

Menstrual delay for drugs 

Among the many side effects that drugs can give and which are generally contained in the package insert, there are also alterations in the menstrual cycle. Certain types of pharmaceutical products (such as certain antidepressants, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antibiotics, or cortisone taken for a long time to treat chronic diseases) can be the cause of a delay.

Menstrual delay for contraceptive pill

When you decide to stop a hormonal contraceptive such as the pill, because you want to become pregnant or for any other reason, your cycle does not necessarily go back to normal. In fact, the pill stops ovulation, so when you stop it may take a while for the hormonal balance to return to the way it was, especially in women who normally have an irregular cycle. 


Menstrual delay from flu

As well as other "seasonal ailments", a bad flu that forces you to bed with fever, headache, cold and pain can also lead to menstrual "imbalances", delaying the arrival of menstruation. Generalized malaise affects the entire cycle, but it is not a fact that should in any way cause alarm. It will all pass as soon as you feel better. 

Menstrual delay due to pregnancy: what to do 

Certainly the first thing to do to dispel any small doubts about a delay in menstruation is a pregnancy test. Both household ones (just wet them with urine) and blood sampling, much more reliable, are fine. Beta hCG appear first in the blood, so the blood test is the one that gives the most certainty. In case of delay, a phone call to the gynecologist does not hurt. 

While waiting to verify that you are really pregnant, behave as if you were, following the good rules for pregnant women: take folic acid, eat healthy, take the right precautions against toxoplasmosis (no raw foods, especially meat and cured meats , wash fruit and vegetables very well, avoid direct contact with cat feces and the earth), do not take alcohol, do not smoke, do moderate physical activity.

Menstrual delay, but not pregnant: how to behave 

Excluding pregnancy, we must try to understand what is the cause of the delay in menstruation. When you get back there, the solution is at hand. 

  1. Stress. If this is the reason, you should try to reduce it as much as possible. Find your own space to do something you love, like seeing friends, hitting the gym, or pursuing a hobby. 
  1. Weight. Finding your ideal weight also means having a more regular cycle and avoiding delays. Get advice from a nutritionist or dietician to lose (or gain) the pounds you need. 
  1. Polycystic ovary syndrome. The cure for this endocrine disorder depends on what its physical manifestations are. They range from the use of oral contraceptives to fertility treatments, to drugs to increase insulin sensitivity. 
  1. Thyroid dysfunction. Usually, the administration of ad hoc therapies to normalize the thyroid function is sufficient to make menstrual cycles return to regular without the need to intervene with other treatments. 
  1. Lack of sleep. Unfortunately, there is little to do for shift work, unless you are able to agree with your boss. To induce sleep in a natural way there are many products, from chamomile to melatonin. 
  1. Menopause and perimenopause. If menstruation is skipped or delayed due to the arrival of more or imminent menopause memo there is nothing that can be done. However, consider that it may have been a sporadic case. 
  1. Competitive sport. Rely on a serious and prepared trainer who also knows the mechanisms of the female body and does not burden you with excessively heavy workouts for your body. 
  1. Medicines. If you have been taking any medication for a while to treat a temporary ailment, the delay was just coincidental. Everything will return to normal the moment you suspend it. If the therapy is longer, be patient. 
  1. Contraceptive pill. If after the suspension your period did not immediately return to normal and you had to deal with an annoying delay, rest assured. In 2-3 months everything will stabilize again. 
  1. Influence. The state of discomfort that caused the delay is destined to pass within a few days. As soon as you feel better, your menstrual cycle will also return to its place as before this passing period. 
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