7 "Other" Reasons Your Period Is Late

Your period is a sign that everything in your body is working smoothly, so any break from the status quo can throw it off schedule. Still, it can be stressful when your period doesn't show up when you expected. (Um, how many days in a row can you wear those black jeggings "just to be safe" before it gets weird?) And if you're sexually active, of course, a missed period can send you into panic mode. But take heart — there are a few non-earth-shattering reasons your period could be running behind this month.

1. Your hormones are out of balance.

"The menstrual cycle is an intricate system of coordinated functions between the brain, ovaries, and uterus," explains Nichole Tyson, MD, an OB/GYN and Director of Pediatric/Adolescent Gynecology at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. So any time your hormones get a little wonky, it can affect your period. Stress hormones can disrupt ovulation, and hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can cause irregular periods, too. If your cycle changes or you start skipping periods often, though, talk to your doctor.

2. You're on birth control.

Long-term use of hormonal birth control (like the Pill, IUDs, and Depo Provera) can thin out the uterine lining, making your period super-light or nonexistent. "Continuous birth control methods can lead to amenorrhea, a condition where your period stops completely," says Dr. Tyson. "This is normal, not worrisome, and often quite a health and life benefit." After all, a barely-there period can mean lighter cramps, lower risk of anemia, and less money spent on tampons. It can even reduce your risk for ovarian cancer!

3. You're under the weather.

Knocked down by a nasty bug recently? That could be the culprit. Dr. Tyson notes that any illness that causes stress or weight loss can also make you miss your period. A mild head cold probably won't do it, but if you've been battling the flu or a stomach virus, that could definitely throw your cycle out of whack.

4. You've been hitting the gym hard.

Excessive exercise can actually cause your period to stop completely. So how much is too much? "There is no hard and fast answer for this, as each woman has unique balance of weight, health, fat, stress, and overall reserve to allow for normal menstrual cycles," Dr. Tyson says. But if you're a serious athlete, or you've recently switched up your fitness regimen, or you're on a strict diet, talk to your doctor to see if that might be slowing your cycle. (It's always smart to run any new diet or exercise plans past your doctor, anyway.)

5. You've gained (or lost) a lot of weight.

Gaining weight quickly can throw off your hormones, which can cause your body to stop ovulating. On the flip side, if your body fat dips too low, that can mess with ovulation, too. Like exercise, what's "too much" varies from person to person — but as a general rule, extreme weight changes are always something you should mention to your doctor.

6. Your thyroid isn't cooperating.

When your body produces too many thyroid hormones, you may have a light flow or skip a month altogether. Keep an eye out for any other symptoms: "An overactive thyroid can be associated with a racing heart, unexplained weight loss, sweating, insomnia, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and tremors," Dr. Tyson says. If any of those ring true for you, your doctor can test for thyroid problems.

7. It's MIA this month.

Sometimes your period just doesn't show up, and there's no good explanation for it. "Many women can expect to miss a period or two in a year," Dr. Tyson says. "It can happen without worry here and there." But if you're irregular on the regular, let your doctor know.

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