When your period is late with no sign of a positive pregnancy test, it can be upsetting and confusing. If your normally regular periods have suddenly become irregular, or stopped, think about whether anything has changed in your lifestyle.1. Pregnancy
It is possible to get a false negative on a pregnancy test (where the test says you're not pregnant even though you are), particularly if you test too early, or don't follow the instructions exactly. If you're in any doubt about the results of your pregnancy test, try waiting a few days and testing again.
Severe stress can affect your hormones, which could cause changes to your menstrual cycle, or even stop your periods altogether. Learn more about how stress affects your menstrual cycle, and get tips on what to do about it.
3. Being overweight or obese
Being overweight (with a BMI of 25 or more) or obese (with a BMI of 30 or more) can also affect your hormone balance and menstrual cycle. If you're finding it difficult to manage your weight, and it's affecting your periods, your GP may be able to refer you to a dietitian or other local services, who'll help you lose the weight safely.
4. Sudden weight lossBeing underweight, or losing weight very quickly, can mean that you're not getting enough calories for a healthy menstrual cycle. If you have a body mass index (BMI) under 18.5, or are suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia, speak to your GP. She may refer you to a specialist who can help you get back to a healthy weight, which should get your periods back to normal, too.
5. Extreme exercise
6. The contraceptive pillIf you're taking the pill, it's perfectly normal for you to have the occasional missed period. Provided your period returns the next time it's due, there's no need to worry. Other types of contraception, such as the progestogen-only pill (mini pill), contraceptive injection and intrauterine system (IUS) can stop your periods altogether. However, your periods should return as soon as you stop using the mini pill or IUS, and within a year of the injection wearing off.
7. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. Symptoms of PCOS include:
Learn more about PCOS, including how it's treated.
8. Other health conditions If you have a long-term health condition, such as thyroid problems, diabetes or coeliac disease, this can also affect your menstrual cycle. Some types of medication, such as antidepressants and epilepsy medication, can also affect your hormones. So if you have any kind of health problem, it's worth speaking to your GP to see if this could be affecting your periods.
9. The menopauseThe menopause is when a woman stops having periods naturally, as part of the ageing process. It usually happens after the age of 45, and is often accompanied by symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and difficulty sleeping. If you are going through the menopause, your periods won't return, and you won't be able to get pregnant naturally. However, it's still worth seeing your GP, who can confirm the menopause and prescribe medication to help with any symptoms you may be experiencing. She can also give you information about other options for having a child, such as adoption or surrogacy.If you miss more than three periods in a row, and pregnancy tests are negative, see your GP. She'll ask you some questions about your medical history, and may arrange for you to have some tests, such as a blood test, to find out exactly what's causing your missed periods. If necessary, she'll refer you to a specialist who'll make sure that you get the care you need.
Whether you regularly use a period calculator or you just intrinsically know when you're due on, for many, a late period can trigger thoughts of potential pregnancy. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant.
Everyone’s cycle is different, but how late can a period be? Healthy cycles can range in length from 21 to 35 days, and how long a cycle lasts can vary from cycle to cycle. Unless you have irregular cycles due to a medical condition, you probably have at least a rough idea of when to expect your next period.
A period is considered late if it hasn’t started within seven days of when you expect it. Most pregnancy tests will be able to give you accurate results by the time your period is late. If you get a negative pregnancy test after missing a period, and your period is more than a week late, you may want to see your health care provider to figure out what’s going on.
If you get a negative pregnancy test result, still haven’t gotten your period, and start to experience early pregnancy symptoms, consider taking another test. Sometimes, home pregnancy tests can give a false-negative result if it’s taken too early in the pregnancy to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. In these cases, it can take a bit longer to know you’re pregnant after a late period. The earliest hCG detection can be done with an hCG serum test performed by a doctor as early as 8 to 10 days after ovulation.
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Whether you’re busy or just have a lot on your mind, it’s easy to forget when you should expect your period to start. But if you’re not sure when to expect your period, it’s hard to know if it’s late.
A period tracking app like Flo can help. By logging your usual menstrual cycle dates, Flo can predict when you can expect your period. This information can also be very useful if you need to go to your health care provider when you miss your period. Having information about your cycle can help them understand what’s happening inside your body.
There are lots of causes for a late period that aren’t pregnancy. Some of the most common causes of late periods include:
Hormonal birth control
One of the ways that hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy is by thinning the uterine lining. This lining, or endometrium, is where an embryo would implant itself if you got pregnant. It’s also the layer that sheds from your uterus during menstruation each month. Since birth control makes this layer thinner, many people experience lighter periods while they’re taking it.
In some cases, the endometrium gets so thin that menstruation doesn’t happen. Everyone is different, and as long as you’ve been taking your birth control correctly, missing a period on birth control shouldn’t be a cause for concern. If it will ease your mind, you can always take a pregnancy test if you’re not sure.
Stress affects everyone differently. When you experience chronic or extreme stress, hormones like cortisol can interfere with your menstrual cycle. However, it’s hard to determine exactly how much stress you have to experience for this to occur, since everyone reacts to stress differently.
If you have an underlying health condition, stress could be an added factor that makes your cycles even more irregular. Creating healthy lifestyle habits can help keep both your mind and body in good shape.
Being overweight or underweight can cause hormonal imbalances since fatty tissue plays a role in synthesizing hormones. Additionally, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time can affect your hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is part of one of your body’s systems responsible for hormones. If the function of your hypothalamus is disrupted from an abrupt weight change, it can disrupt ovulation and cause a late or missed period.
Certain medications, such as certain antipsychotics, can create hormonal imbalances that can cause a late or missed period. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist about the possible side effects of any medications you’re taking.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can cause irregular periods because it affects your ovulation. Other symptoms of PCOS include:
If you believe that you could have PCOS, a health care provider can give you a proper diagnosis and prescribe the treatment that you need.
There are other conditions that can cause late or missed periods other than pregnancy. These conditions include:
Having a late period doesn’t always mean that you’re pregnant. In some cases, such as when you’re experiencing stress, your cycles could return to normal once you’re feeling better. However, if you’re worried about the underlying cause of your late period, it’s always helpful to take a pregnancy test and/or contact your health care provider if other symptoms arise.