What else could missing my period mean?
If I miss a period, what else could it mean if I’m not pregnant?
A missed period is one of the earliest indicators that you are pregnant, although it’s easy to jump to conclusions if you have been trying to conceive. People automatically connect a late or missed period with a pregnancy but there are other possibilities.
Stress: Most of us can manage a certain level of stress but too much can have a negative effect on how your cycle functions. A period is regulated by a particular set of hormones and if the balance is upset by stress, then it can interfere with a regular cycle. A high stress event like a death or divorce could stop a period altogether. Regular exercise or an activity like yoga can counter stress, as can breathing exercises and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
Weight changes: Sudden weight loss can cause periods to stop as restricting the amount of calories stops the production of hormones needed for ovulation. Being overweight or obese can also affect a menstrual cycle as the body may produce an excessive amount of oestrogen. A referral to a dietician may be necessary.
Illness: If you become ill around the time of ovulation, this can lead to a late or even missed period. This will normally correct itself once the illness passes.
Excessive exercising: Exercise is good for us and for our bodies but too much can play havoc with our cycles. If an excessive regime has delayed or stopped a period, you’ll be advised to reduce levels of activity.
Change in schedules: Have you switched from the day shift to the night one? Or undertaken a long journey with different time-zones? This can throw your body clock into disarray. However, as a schedule returns to normal, so should the cycle.
Taking the pill: The contraceptive pill can interfere with periods. Some types, such as the progestogen-only pill, contraceptive injection and intrauterine system (IUS) such as Mirena can cause periods to stop completely. Periods should return when you stop taking these particular contraceptives. If you’ve recently come off the pill in the hope of getting pregnant, it may take a month or so for your cycle to regulate itself - so a missed period may just be your body’s way of doing this. Other medications unrelated to contraception, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs can also delay a period - or cause it to stop entirely.
Menopause: Your periods stops after the menopause which usually occurs between the ages of 44 and 55 but you may start missing periods as you approach the menopause - what’s known as the perimenopause - when oestrogen levels will start to drop and ovulation becomes less regular. You will probably have other symptoms including sleeping problems, hot flushes and/or night sweats.
Breastfeeding: Prolactin - the hormone responsible for breast milk production - suppresses ovulation so many months do not have a period for months or at all while breastfeeding. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant during this time.
Periods can also sometimes stop as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or as a result of a long-term medical condition like heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes or an overactive thyroid.