The number of days in a menstrual cycle, more often than not, varies from one person to another. On some months, there may be a delay in your period to start, on others it may come early. Before drawing any conclusion it’s best to analyze your condition. There are many situations, apart from pregnancy where a woman can experience delay in her menses.Duration of a normal menstrual cycle is 28 days but it can vary from 21-35 days without any obvious ailment.
Pregnancy is the most common and well known reason behind a missed period. As the fertilized egg gets implanted in the inner lining of the mother’s uterus, a series of hormones are released. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) , the primary hormone of pregnancy produced by both fetal and maternal tissue prompts ovaries to continue producing estrogen and progesterone. Both these hormones help inner lining of uterus to grow and mature and prevent cyclical shedding.
Too much workload can cause an array of changes inside our body. It can lead to production of stress hormone which affects different systems of the body. Exposure to stress chronically invokes the adrenal glands to produce cortisol in excessive amount which has detrimental effects on our brain. Brain cells are gradually destroyed and when hypothalamus, the controlling centre of hormones, is affected there is derangement of the reproductive cycle along with delay in period. Infections can add to the stress level and produce similar events.
Thyroid hormone disorder
Thyroxin, the primary hormone produced by thyroid gland, can be very tricky. Both in excessive or low amount, i.e. during hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, thyroxin affect menstrual cycle. While a frequent and longer period can be attributed to hypothyroid state, delayed period is usually associated with excessive thyroxin in the body.
Hyperthyroidism presents with delayed period along with other symptoms. Periods are usually spaced wide apart and bleeding is scanty in amount. You can be surer about your condition if there is sudden weight loss, palpitation, anxiety, restlessness, sleep deprivation, etc.
Nursing mothers can also face late periods or sometimes there can be total absence of bleeding for months. Post birth, an infant is recommended to be fed only mother’s breast milk and nothing else for 6 months post birth. Production of milk is mainly dependent on the hormone prolactin, the level of which increases exponentially in a nursing mother. Prolactin causes estrogen level to fall. As a result ovaries fail to release a mature egg for fertilization and absence of periods (amenorrhea) follows.
As the baby’s diet shifts to other food, the mother can again start menstruating due to decreasing prolactin level.
Low body weight
Body fat is essential to maintain the regularity of menstrual cycle. Fat tissue produces a substance Lipocortin that has some effect on hypothalamus and it absence leads to low estrogen level. Low estrogen level causes hindrance to growth of uterine lining which is not produced in sufficient for periods to occur.
Excessive exercise, low calorie intake or severe disease conditions can result in lack of periods for couple of months.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
A set of symptoms driven by raised androgen level in a female body, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a growing cause of menstrual irregularity and amenorrhea. This condition usually presents with late periods for months (oligomenorrhea) or complete absence of it for more than three months (amenorrhea). A gynecological sonography reveals multiple cysts on the ovaries in most of the patients and hence its name.
Menopause marks the climax of fertility in a woman, after which she permanently stops to bleed cyclically. But before stopping completely, she may have infrequent menses for some time, ranging from 6 months to eight years.
The time before menopause is known as perimenopause when ovaries gradually decrease their secretion of hormones. As a result periods are delayed and sometimes absent totally for months before finally stopping.
Intake of medications
Certain drugs like birth control medicines can delay your period. Regular intake of these will stop ovulation and cause delaying. Combined pills and minipills are taken according to a schedule and when paused withdrawal bleeding occurs.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) like Mirena when placed inside the uterus for contraception causes uterine lining to thin out, leaving not much to shed during periods.
On this note, it should be mentioned that a through clinical evaluation is always preferable if one has any doubts regarding her menstrual cycle as this serves as a mirror for a wide variety of diseases.