Many women often experience late periods. Some of them may be afraid that this is a sign of pregnancy. However, most of the time, the pregnancy tests are negative. Don't be stressed out. If your period is just one week late, it is normal. Women usually have normal periods every 28 days. You may also have a cycle as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days.
Causes of a Late Period
When you are experiencing a late period, the possible reasons include:
Stress during ovulation. When you are stressed around the time you are expected to ovulate your hypothalamus sends hormonal signals to your ovaries which can inhibit the release of an egg or ovulation. The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that regulates the menstrual cycle, and any alterations in its function caused by extreme stress or anxiety can affect your period.
Taking contraceptives. Birth control pills and injections can cause hormonal changes that can affect the regularity of your periods. These can cause your menstrual cycles to be irregular or cause periods to be missed. These can also lead to changes in menstrual flow which may manifest as vaginal spotting or bleeding between periods. A late period may therefore be due to hormonal changes induced by contraceptive use.
Vigorous exercise. It is not uncommon for female athletes to have late periods or missed periods because of rigorous training. This is the effect of hormonal changes related to loss of body fat, stress or failure to ovulate.
Changes in body weight. You can have a late period if you have gained too much weight or lost too much fat. Aside from your ovaries, estrogen can also come from fat. A normal increase in estrogen is what stimulates ovulation to occur. If you have too much fat your estrogen level may be consistently high and there is no change in levels that the body recognizes to trigger ovulation. On the other hand, if you are underweight, you may not have enough estrogen to stimulate ovulation. This can cause irregular, missed or late periods.
Medical disorders. Some medical conditions can affect hormonal balance and cause irregularities in your menstrual cycles, causing late periods. Examples are thyroid disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, eating disorders and uterine scarring. Some medications can also affect your hormonal cycles, and these include oral corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs, anti-psychotics, and anti-depressants.
Perimenopausal changes. If you are around 45-52 years old and you are about to undergo menopause your menstrual cycles may become irregular and you may experience late periods. The character of your menstrual flow may also change and you may experience symptoms like heat flashes and headaches.
Wrong calculation. This is a common mistake which can mislead you into thinking you are late for your regular period. Another factor is when your menstrual cycle does not correspond to exactly 28 days then you may think you have a delay. Women usually find out they have just miscalculated their menstrual cycle and do not actually have a late period.
What to Do When Your Period is Late
You may not have to do anything at all if your period is late for just a few days. Maybe relaxing and checking if your calculation is correct may help, especially if your period has been regular in the past.
After a week has passed you may want to check if you are pregnant by doing a pregnancy test at home. You may repeat this test after a couple of days if it comes out initially negative.
However, if you have been experiencing irregular periods you may want to see your doctor who will evaluate your menstrual cycle, your hormonal levels and your general health to make a proper diagnosis.
It is important to remember that having a late period is usually normal, so just try to relax and consider the possible causes.