Delayed Periods What's Up With That? | The Hormone Diva

Delayed Periods: What’s Up With That?

How long has it been since you had a period? Three months? Six months? A year or more? I bet you’re super fucking DONE with not knowing when (or if!) it’s going to come and dealing with the PMS mood swings and weight gain that just don’t go away.
 
I hear you, I’ve been there. As you may be aware, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Part of that issue means that my cycles were extremely irregular. When I first came off the birth control pill after seven years on the damn thing I didn’t get my first period for four months!!
 
I was extremely anxious, depressed, my weight shot up and my skin was breaking out like I was a thirteen year old girl again. Bonus: I was in nutrition school at the time. Not feeling ‘healthy’ enough to be there really sucked too.
 
After this, my periods came between every 45-65 days. The ‘PMS’ that many women experience maybe a week before their period was never ending in me. I bet it’s you too. There are many different reasons that your period may be delayed, and I’m outlining the top 7 of them below. 
 
As always, get some tests done and check with your doc and your natural healthcare practitioner before beginning a protocol to deal with any of the following. 
 
 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome {PCOS}

 
PCOS is a condition that is diagnosed on the following three criteria (at the time of writing):
  1. Oligomenorrhea or anovulation
  2. Clinical and/or biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism like cystic acne, hair loss (androgenic alopecia) and excessive body hair growth (hirsutism)
  3. Cysts on the ovaries
 
All you need is two out of three! For me, it was the first two- my cycles were extremely irregular and I had many of the signs of hyperandrogenism like acne, facial/body hair and head hair loss. 
 
The connection here to delayed periods lies in the first diagnostic criteria: oligomenorrhea or anovulatory cycles. If you cycles are longer than 35 days, it could be considered oligomenorrhea. The reason that cycles become so long is the lack of ovulation. Ovulation occurs (in a healthy cycle) fourteen days before the expected period. The means in a 28 day cycle, ovulation should occur on Day 14. 
 
In women with PCOS, the constantly high levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), as well as high insulin and testosterone prevent the surge of LH which normally causes ovulation because levels of LH are consistently high all the time. No ovulation = no period. Some women may notice they get some spotting during their cycle, but this is not a true period. Rather it is known as breakthrough bleeding.
 
Balancing PCOS with natural methods is possible and I am living proof! If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, check with your doctor and a natural healthcare practitioner to make sure you get the best treatment for your needs.
 

Pregnancy

 
This is probably the most obvious reason for a delayed period. Sometimes accidents (or planned miracles!) happen.  If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test!
 

Stress

 
The interesting thing about our stress and sex hormones is that they are made from the same starting molecule: cholesterol. Yes, that’s right! Cholesterol has gotten a seriously bad rap, because without it, you can’t make steroid hormones! Your body uses cholesterol to make a precursor to your sex and stress hormones first, known as pregnenolone. Then, depending on need, the pregnenolone will be used to make either stress hormones (cortisol, DHEA) or sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). 
 
If you are someone who is chronically stressed, maybe you feel like you can’t even take another person cutting you off in traffic or another dirty dish in the sink, this section might be for you! When you are stressed out for a long period of time, cortisol will reign. Your body will be using most of the pregnenolone to make cortisol and other stress hormones, and saying a big “up yours” to sex hormones.  Without the proper amounts of sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone at the right times, your period will be delayed.
 
My PCOS is mainly rooted in an adrenal androgen hormone known as DHEA. What this means for me is that if I want to balance myself and keep my cycles regular, I must manage my stress to the best of my ability. When I shifted my focus almost entirely to stress management rather than ‘PCOS management’, my cycles regulated. How about that!
 

Thyroid

 
The thyroid gland is intimately connected to both your state of stress (+ stress hormones) and your reproductive (sex hormone) virility. Generally it is an underactive thyroid gland (either from hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) that reduces the frequency of menstruation rather than an overactive thyroid. If you are also experiencing dry skin, dry hair, extreme fatigue (like wanting to sleep 12-14 hours a day), hair and eyebrow thinning and unexplained weight gain, investigating your thyroid as the root cause could be worth your time!
 
 

Hormonal Birth Control

 
This includes the Pill, a hormonal IUD, the patch, the shot and anything else they come up with to stick synthetic hormones in our bodies! These medications put your body into a state of pseudo-pregnancy, essentially tricking it so you won’t become pregnant. This also means that you are not ovulating. No ovulation = no period. And as a loving FYI, the bleeding that you do experience on hormonal birth control isn’t a real period at all. It’s simply breakthrough bleeding. Many women do not experience bleeding at all while using these prescriptions as well.
 
If you have recently come off of hormonal birth control, it can take time for your body to balance itself out, potentially causing delayed periods. Depending on your individual body systems and the length of time you were on the drug will determine how long and the severity of your withdrawal. 
 

Perimenopause

 
Are you over 40? Finding that you need a glass (or 5) of wine at night to unwind and have a good night’s sleep? Perhaps your flow has become heavier or lighter, or your cycles are longer? It could be perimenopause. What this means simply is that your body is getting ready for the final flow of your life. Menopause has officially happened when you haven’t had a period in over 12 months, and are of the right age. 
 
Sometimes while your body is figuring all this out, cycles become delayed. There could be many reasons for this, including stress and low estrogen preventing ovulation. 
 

Excessive Exercise or Weight Loss

 
This one is for the marathon runners and bootcamp addicts. If you are exercising very frequently (6-7 days per week) for long durations and at a high intensity, it can cause your body to delay or stop menstruation. This is because that type of exercise actually raises cortisol, and we’ve already talked about how stress can interfere with periods. Also, if your body fat percentage becomes radically low (from excessive exercise or dramatic weight loss), your body won’t have the necessary components (cholesterol, and others) to create the hormones in the first place.
 
 
As you can see, there are numerous reasons your period might be delayed. The big takeaway here is to relax. Destress yourself as much as possible, get the help and support you need, and I bet you’ll notice a difference in your cycles!
 
 

Let’s talk! How long are your cycles? Have you gotten to the bottom of the cause? Please share in the comments!

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