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Curejoy Expert Claude Butler Explains:
Most women have between 11 and 13 menstrual periods each year. But everyone is different. You may have more or fewer. Missed or irregular periods must be looked at in terms of what is normal for you.
However, if you miss more than three periods in a row and pregnancy tests are negative, your doctor should give you a thorough evaluation in case something’s wrong. Women can stop having regular periods for many reasons, including excessive exercise. Here are some other possibilities:
1. Major Weight Loss or Excessive Exercise
If your BMI rapidly dips below 18 or 19, you may start to miss periods. Serious conditions like anorexia and bulimia can cause missed periods, but so can training for a marathon or some other major event that requires you to exercise more than usual. Nature has a way of protecting you from getting pregnant if your body is under such extreme stress. Your body prevents ovulation so you don’t have a lot of estrogen, don’t build a big uterine lining, and then don’t get a period.
2. Eating disorders
Eating disorders are life-threatening, dangerous conditions that can affect not only your menstrual cycles, but also your overall health. When you have excessively low body weight (i.e. you’re way too skinny), this can interfere with hormonal functions, which might stop ovulation. These abnormal hormonal changes are the reason that anorexics and bulimics often stop having periods.
Remember that your body needs a certain number of fat cells in order for ovulation and menstruation to take place. When you are way too skinny and have a very low body weight, because of anorexia, everything in your body slows down. Your reproductive organs will shut down, and you will not ovulate and you will not have your periods.
Any major change in your life can cause hypothalamic amenorrhea. The hypothalamus, is where a lot of the hormones for your period are regulated. If it is affected by stress, there may be changes in your period cycle.
4. Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland, located in your neck, regulates your metabolism. It also interacts with many other systems in your body to keep things running smoothly. If you’re dealing with any type of thyroid imbalance, whether its hypo- or hyperthyroidism, then this can have implications for your period.
There are some medications that can disrupt menstrual cycles. For example, some chemotherapy drugs, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and oral corticosteroids can cause you to have missed periods, or no menstrual periods at all.
6. Polycystic Ovary Symptom
PCOS is a hormone imbalance that comes down to a lack of ovulation, so you have altered levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It can cause you to completely miss your period or just not menstruate regularly.
7. Birth Control Pills
A missing period can actually be a harmless byproduct of the measures you take to avoid pregnancy. Some low-dose pills will cause a lack of menses that isn’t dangerous. The same goes for methods like hormonal IUDs, implants, or shots. It can also take some time for your period to come back if you’ve stopped birth control, but it will usually resume without issue in a few months.
8. Traveling and Jetlag
Traveling and jet lag can easily throw the most predictable 28-day cycle into an unpredictable one. Traveling is a lot of fun, but can be stressful at times as your exercise schedule may increase or decrease depending on how active you are, eating habits may change along with sleep schedules that affect your circadian rhythm, which affects your body’s regular systems. In fact, studies have shown that many flight attendants (who travel all the time) experience irregular menstrual cycles (late and missed periods).
If you have missed your period, but you’re only a week late, try not to stress out. There’s a possibility that your period is just late. But a home pregnancy test (or two or three) to ensure that you’re not pregnant and contact your doctor. You may be asked to undergo a variety of tests to pinpoint why you’ve missed your period.