Most of us know roughly how our menstrual cycle is. Although it differs according to individuals, on average, it lies between 28 and 32 days. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle is important because an irregular cycle can point towards serious health issues, including cervix cancer. Most women also use their menstrual cycle as an indicator on whether they could be pregnant. If you’re sexually active and your period arrived late, it might be good to reach out for a pregnancy test kit. But pregnancy is not the only reason for your period to come late. Here are other factors that might cause your crimson wave to be delayed.
You’re not sleeping regularly
On that same note, sudden changes in your sleep pattern (say you started working the graveyard shift or you’re constantly pulling all-nighters at the office) can also affect your menstrual cycle. A study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that female shift workers were likelier to experience menstrual irregularities and overall longer menstrual cycles. The reason? An out-of-sync circadian rhythm again.
You travel a lot
Exploring new countries and cultures is awesome, but the actual flying from place to place? Not so much. And when it comes to international travel, there’s no way around the fact that crossing different time zones takes a huge toll on your body.
When you’re in another country, your circadian rhythm is affected because all regularity regarding your sleep-wake cycle gets thrown out the window. It may be 10pm local time but only 10am back home. As a result, your body becomes exposed to light changes at different times of the day and this can screw up your internal rhythms and trigger hormonal changes.
You’re going through early menopause
Early menopause may be a sign of premature ovarian failure, a condition where your ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. According to experts at the National University Hospital Women’s Centre, common symptoms include missed periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irritability and decreased sexual desire.
Women who suffer from premature ovarian failure may also be at risk of infertility and osteoporosis since oestrogen plays an important part in maintaining strong bones.
You might have a hormonal disorder
If your periods are consistently irregular and you’ve noticed unusual hair growth or acne, it’s best to speak to your doctor about the possibility of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In Singapore, PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder and affects 5- 15 per cent of women in their reproductive years. Those suffering from the condition typically exhibit menstrual irregularities due to the higher presence of androgens (“male hormones”) in their bodies. This can affect ovulation and make it more difficult to conceive.
Thankfully, there are ways to contain PCOS even though it’s not a curable condition. Consult your gynaecologist for a suitable treatment plan.
You’re exercising too much
Exercising is great for you on so many levels, and we’d never advocate putting your workouts on the backburner. But if your sweat sessions are packed back to back and you’ve noticed that your periods are becoming very light or pulling a disappearing act, you might be pushing your body too hard.
Intensive exercise regimes coupled with a low body weight can cause your body to think that it’s in starvation mode. It registers what it’s going through as a high-stress situation and may start to switch off non-vital bodily functions in order to survive. Since menstruation is part of the reproductive process, it gets side-lined since it’s considered non-essential (compared to say, your respiratory or digestive functions).
Consider switching to lower-impact activities for a start and speak to your gynaecologist to come up with a plan to get your period back.
You’re too stressed
On average, a woman’s cycle will last 28 days or so, but stress can cause this to fluctuate from month to month. If you’ve been under a lot of pressure at work recently or are going through an emotionally trying period like the death of a loved one, you may notice that your period is later than usual. This is likely because heightened cortisol levels can interfere with hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, causing your cycle to go out of whack.
Dealing with prolonged periods of extreme stress can even trigger a condition called secondary amenorrhea where your monthly period just stops altogether. Get your menstrual cycle back on track by minimising and managing the stressors in your life by taking some time out. Focus on nourishing your body through healthy food, regular exercise and good company.
You’re not eating enough
You may think your new diet is working wonders for you when it comes to shedding kilos, but it’s time to think twice if your period starts getting irregular. When you go on a restrictive diet where you don’t consume enough calories or cut out entire food groups, you put yourself at risk of nutritional deficiencies. That, combined with sudden weight loss, can cause your period to go MIA.
Instead of embarking on a crash diet, opt for a more sustainable healthy eating plan. After all, it’s not just the numbers on the scale that matter, but eating well and fuelling your body with the right foods.
Text: Dawn Chen / Shape Singapore / January 2018
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For more stories on period, read 16 Surprising Things You Never Knew About Periods and 7 Signs That Your Period Pain Points To Serious Health Problems.