For women who want to get pregnant, delayed menstruation is usually a good sign. For those who do not plan to have a child, at least for now, it can be a cause for concern.
Delayed menstruation is a very common concern, and often the first sign of a possible pregnancy, but its origin may be other causes, including stress, hormonal disorders and even eating habits. But we will talk about this later.
Among other relevant aspects, in this article we address the main causes that may be the cause of delayed menstruation. Check out!
What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?
Every month the woman menstruates due to the flaking of the inner walls of the uterus when there is no fertilization of the egg. This process is part of the menstrual cycle. According to the Directorate-General for Health, this cycle is the period between the first day of menstruation until the moment before the next menstruation.
Recommended: Find Out How to Calculate Your Menstrual Cycle
As a general rule, the average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, however, it is important to note that a large proportion of women do not have a regular menstrual cycle.
This cycle occurs in four phases:
- Menstruation – Phase of blood loss itself. It occurs after the reproductive cycle, eliminating the unfertilized egg through menstruation (blood);
- Follicular phase – Period in which the egg develops to leave the ovary and the uterus begins to prepare to receive a possible fertilized egg;
- Ovulatory phase – Phase in which the woman is in the so-called “fertile period” and is more likely to become pregnant (period between the 13th and 15th day before each menstruation);
- Lutein phase – Period in which the unfertilized egg dissolves, initiating blood loss and a new menstruation.
What are the causes of delayed menstruation?
Among the main causes for delays in the menstrual cycle, may be stress, pregnancy, sudden weight loss, excessive physical exercise, the use of some contraceptive methods, among others.
Next, we address the most common causes of delayed menstruation:
As we have already mentioned, when having a baby is not in a woman’s plans, delayed menstruation can be a cause for great concern. Women with an active sex life may associate delayed menstruation with a possible pregnancy.
Menstruation delay is usually the first sign of pregnancy and appears at 3 to 4 weeks of gestation. However, about ⅓ of pregnant women, may experience atypical bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy, hence the fact that many women are pregnant and do not know, believing they have regular menstruation.
The pregnancy test is the quickest and most practical way to confirm or rule out the possibility of a pregnancy. There are a variety of quick and safe tests that can be found in pharmacies. Rapid tests detect the presence of hCG, known as the “pregnancy hormone”.
2. Stress and anxiety
We all go through stressful situations in our lives, be it a fast-paced work routine, studies, worries about children, professional careers, nobody is free from these types of situations.
Some studies point to a relationship between high levels of stress and anovulation (when the ovaries do not release an egg in the menstrual cycle), as well as longer or shorter menstrual cycles and cramps (menstrual pain).
Differences in the level and duration of stress and anxiety can cause each body to respond differently.
3. Restrictive diets
Reducing the number of essential nutrients can lead to hormonal fluctuations, causing interruptions in a woman’s menstrual cycle. In addition, very restrictive diets, with few proteins and carbohydrates, for example, can cause a reduction in ovulation and an increase in progesterone production, with the possible consequence of delayed menstruation.
4. Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
Another possible reason for delayed menstruation (or even for your absence) is the high or low production of thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism, causing acceleration or deceleration throughout the body, such as an increase in heart rate, insomnia, nervousness, stress, weight loss or increase, in addition to interferences in the menstrual cycle, in the case of woman.
5. Weight fluctuations
Obesity, overweight and extreme weight loss are possible conditions that increase delays in menstruation. Obesity or weight gain can cause the body to produce a greater amount of estrogen (female hormone), affecting the woman’s menstrual cycle.
6. Polycystic ovary syndrome
It is a hormonal imbalance that causes a lack of ovulation in women. Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known by the acronym PCOS, causes the loss of menstruation or leaves it unregulated, and can cause other symptoms, such as the appearance of hair on the face and chest, difficulties in losing weight and even infertility.
It is the period before menopause (end of menstruation). It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, when estrogen levels start to fluctuate and menstruation becomes less frequent.
Perimenopause can be short or long-lasting. On average, it starts 4 to 5 years before menopause, causing various symptoms in the woman’s body, including delayed menstruation, hot flashes, insomnia, migraines, mood swings, among others.
The use of medications or changes in dosage can affect the body in several ways, including the menstrual cycle. Contraceptives such as the pill, for example, inject various hormones into the body, preventing menstruation.
For women who have stopped using the pill and want to start menstruating again, the cycle may take about 6 months to return to normal.
9. Alterations of the hypothalamus and pituitary
These are glands located in the brain that have the function of regulating sex hormones. The hypothalamus releases substances that stimulate or decrease the production of pituitary hormones, causing various symptoms in the body, such as delayed menstruation or irregularities in the menstrual cycle.
10. Intense or excessive physical exercise
Athletes, marathon runners, gymnasts and people who practice high competition physical exercise, usually suffer from changes in cycles and delayed menstruation. High caloric expenditure, intense training and low body fat are responsible for changes in the menstrual cycle.
What to do in case of delayed menstruation?
The first step in ending doubts and uncertainties is to take a pregnancy test. If the result is negative and it is not possible to identify the cause of the menstrual delay, we recommend that you see your gynecologist. The gynecologist will assess the causes and, most likely, order tests such as a progestogen test.
Tips and recommendations:
Some changes in habits are important for the proper functioning of our body. Check out some tips on how you can help your menstrual cycle to be more regular, free of discomfort, cramps and delays:
- Take time off to relax and for leisure;
- Practice regular physical exercise to control your stress level;
- Eat well. Maintain a balanced diet, include foods rich in calcium, magnesium and zinc and give priority to macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates), responsible for hormonal regulation;
- Consult your gynecologist regularly to identify possible health problems.
We hope this article has been helpful. Although we believe that it can be a good starting point to understand what may be the cause of delayed menstruation, it should be noted that it has not replaced medical advice.