A menstrual delay can be a problem for various reasons, not only because it can worry those who do not seek a pregnancy, but also creates additional stress for those who want that pregnancy but, despite the delay, they do not get a positive test.
Let’s first clarify what a delay in the menstrual cycle is.
What does late menstruation mean?
A delay is defined as such when more than 16 days pass from ascertained ovulation (attention when we say ascertained we do not mean with the use of computers, but verified with the observation of ovulatory symptoms, by positive ovulation tests, or by monitoring the menstrual cycle with basal temperature).
Many times a delay is not a delay because either he has not ovulated or he has ovulated much later than usual, and consequently also menstruation is delayed.
Remember that menstruation always comes 12-16 days after ovulation. If you ovulate late, your period will also move forward as a result.
Excluding a pregnancy (to exclude it just do a normal pregnancy test with the first pee in the morning, from the first day of delay), there are several reasons why the menstruation does not arrive, let’s see which ones.
1. Too much exercise
Moderate physical training is good for your health but too much can have negative short-term effects. If the body is subjected to excessive exercise, it cannot produce enough estrogen to sustain the normal menstrual cycle, resulting in high or missed cycles.
Gymnasts, professional athletes and dancers run a greater risk of hormonal imbalances resulting in amenorrhea, which is defined as such in the absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles.
2. The weight (too much or too little)
A drastic change in weight, such as being too underweight or overweight, can cause hormonal imbalances and lead to the absence of ovulation and therefore of menstruation.
See also: how weight affects male and female fertility
Weight loss, very low calorie intake and underweight make the body unable to synthesize the necessary estrogen. This also happens in the presence of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
Being overweight can also prevent a regular menstrual cycle, but in this case it is due to the fact that the body produces too much estrogen. This leads to overgrowth of the endometrial lining, which initially results in very heavy menstruation, but could eventually lead to amenorrhea as well.
Stress is a very common condition but in some situations it can result in the absence of menstruation. Why?
Stress due to an emotional condition, or problems at work, or a troubled family life can cause a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea (AFI). It is a form of chronic anovulation with no identifiable organic causes, associated with stress, weight loss, excessive exercise, or a combination of these.
This can cause late or absent menstruation.
A simple indisposition such as a cold or something more serious could actually temporarily prevent you from ovulating and therefore having regular menstruation. In fact, the body may have to decide which functions are most important to support until it is well.
This in a sense means that the body temporarily “sacrifices” the menstrual cycle to fight infections and keep itself as healthy as possible.
5. A change in lifestyle
Lifestyle changes can cause stress, but that’s not all. Moving home, changing hours at work, traveling or waking up earlier can lead to an altered menstrual cycle. These changes can in fact interfere with a woman’s biological clock, which helps regulate her hormones.
This usually causes, if it does, only an altered cycle (perhaps the skip of a single menstruation), since once the body gets used to the new situation (our body has a great ability to adapt), the cycle menstrual will return to normal.
One of the most common reasons for altering one or more menstrual cycles is the use of drugs, especially contraceptives. Some hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill, work by preventing the body from ovulating. There will be blood loss on a regular basis which in the long run can also be greatly reduced. Once you stop taking it, your cycles may struggle to get back to normal right away.
See also: pregnancy after the pill: how long does it take?
Other drugs that can block or delay menstruation are antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, and antipsychotics.
7. Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects the functioning of the ovaries. Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of follicles which, however, do not mature and do not release oocytes. Many women with PCOS have non-ovulatory cycles.
8. Early menopause
Some women may experience premature menopause (click on the link to read the endocrinologist’s article) which will prevent them from menstruating for the rest of their life. Premature menopause is defined as when a woman is no longer fertile before the age of 40.