We’ve all been there. It’s that time of the month and we’re preparing ourselves for a not so pleasant 5-days to week ahead. We’ve packed our supplies, have warned those around us of our potential moods and have added some chocolate to the cupboards – stereotypically, of course. But to our surprise, maybe even our luck, nothing is happening. While to some people this could be great news, for others, it can be confusing trying work out what the cause of the change is. So let’s have a look at some of the potential causes of irregular, late or absent periods.
- You’re experiencing heightened levels of stress.
Stress can have a negative affect on multiple bodily functions, including our immune response, our sleep and even how we menstruate. One of the lead theories for a lack of periods, or amenorrhea, during reproductive age is that cortisol and heightened stress leads to a decrease in a key menstrual hormone. Implementing stress reduction techniques is vital to our overall health and wellbeing – including our cycle health!
- Your sleep quality has lessened or you’re sleeping less.
If you’ve ever had too little sleep or have had difficulty staying asleep, you might notice your mood is a bit snappy and you’re craving sugary snacks, as well as being more tired of course. Cortisol plays a role in our sleep too and can contribute to these negative side effects of poor sleep as well, meaning sleep can be a huge stressor on the body if we are not getting enough of it. Ensuring sleep hygiene is in place and a sleep routine is followed can be essential to supporting our sleep and reducing our stress levels.
- You may be over exercising.
Exercise has many amazing benefits for the body, from releasing endorphins and improving our moods, to supporting our bone and muscle health. If we are over exerting and over exercising, however, we can place a large amount of stress on our body that can, once again, alter our hormones and cause a decrease in key menstrual hormones. Checking in with yourself to see what level and frequency of exercise you’re doing may be beneficial in understanding if excess exercise is a potential cause.
- The content and quantity of your diet.
When we restrict our food intake, we are limiting not only our calories but also our nutrient intake, potentially depriving certain bodily functions of vital nutrients. Iron is essential to red blood cell formation and ensuring we are consuming enough throughout our menstrual cycle is necessary for menstruation. Healthy fats are necessary for hormone signalling as well, and increased protein may be required during menstruation.
- Your birth control may be affecting your cycle.
Whether you are new to birth control or have been on it for years, it is made to alter your periods in some way. If you have just started a new form of birth control, your body may take a while to adjust and your periods may be irregular for a while. Depending on the type, throughout the use of the contraceptive, your periods may stop altogether. If changes occur that are not normal for you, it may be worth updating your doctor.
- There may be an underlying health condition.
Certain reproductive health conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis can alter cycle lengths. These types of conditions are also likely to come with other symptoms such as severe pain, fatigue, excess body hair and certain skin changes. If there have been changes that are abnormal for you, it may be worth speaking to your doctor to explore this further.
- And of course… you may be pregnant!
Although pregnancy scares can often be influenced by the above causes, in some cases pregnancy may actually be the reason. When we have our period, a build up of lining is shed from the uterus as it is not required to house an egg if it has not been fertilised. If it has been fertilised, the lining will maintain its thickness to support the growth of the embryo, consequently stopping your periods.
So there you have it! If you’re looking to explore how nutrition and lifestyle advice can help support your cycle, drop me a message! These areas can play a huge role in supporting menstrual health and I’d love to help support you if you’re feeling confused or frustrated with your periods. You can contact me here!
Draper, C.F., Duisters, K., Weger, B., Chakrabarti, A., Harms, A.C., Brennan, L., & Van Der Greef, J. (2018). Menstrual cycle rhythmicity: metabolic patterns in healthy women. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 1-15.
Gibson, M.E.S., Fleming, N., Zuijdwijk, C., & Dumont, T. (2020). Where have the periods gone? The evaluation and management of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. Journal of Clinical Research in Pediatric Endocrinology, 12(1), 18.
Lateef, O.M., & Akintubosun, M.O. (2020). Sleep and reproductive health. Journal of Circadian Rhythms, 18.
Orio, F., Muscogiuri, G., Ascione, A., Marciano, F., Volpe, A., La Sala, G., & Palomba, S. (2013). Effects of physical exercise on the female reproductive system. Minerva Endocrinol, 38(3), 305-319.