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Reasons for a late period other than pregnancy 

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The female body is a complex system and this also applies to the menstrual cycle. When we miss our period, often our first thoughts race to pregnancy. While this may sometimes be the case, it’s good to keep in mind that a late menstrual cycle does not immediately mean you are pregnant. There are a number of other factors that affect a woman’s period and hormonal balance. It’s good to be aware of them so you can react accordingly in the absence or delay of your cycle. However, for your peace of mind, it’s always wise to take a reliable test, like Surecheck, to rule out pregnancy as the cause of a missed/late period.  

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of late periods and what to do.  

Thyroid problems

Thyroid disorders affect the cycle because of the thyroid’s role in regulating metabolism and the reproductive system. 

Hyperthyroidism: A condition of overactive thyroid gland that can lead to lighter and less frequent periods, along with other symptoms: sweating, fatigue, rapid heart rate and weight loss, along with increased appetite. 

Hypothyroidism: it is expressed in an insufficiently active thyroid gland, it can cause heavier and more frequent periods due to slowed metabolic processes. 

Other conditions such as postpartum thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease also highlight the complex relationship between the thyroid gland and reproductive health and are further evidence of the importance of a well-functioning thyroid gland for a regular menstrual cycle. 

The main methods of treating such thyroid disorders usually involve a combination of lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and medications. 

Stress 

Stress often has a strong impact on the menstrual cycle, as it can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body. When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol, a hormone that directly affects reproductive hormones, can disrupt ovulation and cause changes in the cycle. 

Stressors that affect hormonal balance and the menstrual cycle include things like professional adversity, financial worries, personal and family problems, major life and daily changes (such as moving to a new place or changing jobs). Excessive physical exertion and strength sports can additionally have a negative effect on reproductive health, as they also trigger the release of cortisol in the body. 

The above can lead to various menstrual disturbances, such as a late period, a longer cycle, anovulation (in which no eggs are released) or a missed period altogether. 

For example, stress during the follicular phase (the first half of the cycle before ovulation) can delay or suppress ovulation, resulting in a longer overall cycle. In addition, stress sometimes leads to an anovulatory cycle, in which ovulation does not occur even though bleeding is present. This condition can lead to confusion, especially for those trying to conceive, as the fact that ovulation is absent is difficult to recognize, especially in the presence of bleeding. 

Stress after ovulation can shorten the luteal (last) phase of the cycle, which in turn leads to an earlier than expected onset of menstruation. Too short a luteal phase sometimes prevents pregnancy because it does not give the embryo enough time to implant if conception has occurred. 

To deal with stress and its effects on your menstrual cycle, it’s a good idea to pay attention to yourself. Yoga, pilates, swimming and nature walks are among the physical activities that help with stress and the overall well-being of the body. Maintaining a varied diet and getting enough sleep are also a must, and breathing techniques and meditation are becoming increasingly popular around the world to deal with stress. For high levels of chronic stress, consultation with a medical professional is recommended for individual advice and support. 

Sudden changes in weight 

Significant changes in weight often affect the menstrual cycle. Losing or gaining weight in a short period of time can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate menstruation. This is partly because body fat plays a role in estrogen production, and changes in weight can alter this balance. It is important to aim for a sensible diet and lifestyle in order to maintain a healthy weight and accordingly a regular menstrual cycle. 

Nutrient deficiencies 

Deficiency of certain nutrients, especially iron, has a significant impact on the menstrual cycle. Iron deficiency is a common condition due to blood loss during menstruation, especially in women with heavy menstrual flow or those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. To deal with such deficiencies and maintain hormonal balance in the body, it is a good idea to schedule blood tests every few months, focus on the right food and if you decide to take specialized supplements. Here’s a deeper look at how to improve your diet for hormonal health and more regular periods: 

Foods rich in iron 

As mentioned, iron is crucial, especially for those who have heavy menstrual flow. To combat iron deficiency: 

  • Meat sources: Include beef, chicken, liver and fish, which are some of the best sources of iron. 
  • Plant sources: Focus on legumes (lentils, chickpeas), grains, spinach, nuts and quinoa. Combining them with foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes, can improve iron absorption. 

Nutritional supplements for hormonal balance and menstrual health 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These are found in fish oil supplements and may be helpful in reducing menstrual cramps. 
  • Magnesium: This mineral can ease menstrual cramps and is involved in hormone regulation. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains are excellent sources. 
  • Vitamin D: Helps the body use calcium. It is also associated with improving the regularity of the menstrual cycle and reducing cramps. It can be found in oily fish and egg yolks, but it is often necessary to take it extra, especially in areas with limited sunlight and during the colder months. 
  • Calcium : Known for its role in bones, calcium also helps with menstrual cramps. Good sources are dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, fortified plant-based milk, kale, and almonds. 
  • B vitamins: Especially vitamin B6, which is found in salmon, potatoes and bananas, can help with bloating and other PMS symptoms. 

Foods to regulate hormones 

  • High-fiber foods: Like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, help regulate blood sugar levels, which can reduce menstrual irregularities. 
  • Foods rich in phytoestrogens: Foods such as flaxseeds, soy products, and sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens that can help balance hormones. 
  • Anti-inflammatory foods: Turmeric, ginger, berries and oily fish can reduce inflammation and support hormonal health. 

Remember that while diet and supplements play an important role in managing menstrual health and hormonal balance, they should complement a holistic approach that includes regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management. 

Medicines 

Taking certain drugs can also affect the menstrual cycle due to the effect of the drugs on the hormonal balance in the body. Psychiatric medications, certain types of chemotherapy drugs, and hormonal contraceptives often cause cycle changes, such as late or missed periods. These changes may be a direct result of the way these drugs interact with the body’s natural hormonal balance. If you notice changes in your reproductive health after starting a new medication, you should consult a doctor. An alternative treatment may exist or the dose may need to be changed. 

PCOS 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder that affects between 8 and 13% of women of reproductive age. This makes the syndrome one of the most common hormonal disorders in this age group. What is significant about PCOS is that up to 70% of affected women go undiagnosed, which highlights the need for greater awareness of the condition. 

Polycystic ovaries are characterized by a number of symptoms that vary greatly among individuals. These symptoms include ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), acne, and being overweight. The condition sometimes also includes insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. This syndrome is also one of the leading causes of infertility due to its influence on ovulation. 

It is not fully understood what causes the condition, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and insulin than others. Therefore, they are believed to play a key role in the development of the condition. These hormonal imbalances can prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation), leading to irregular menstrual cycles and difficulty conceiving. 

Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are various methods to manage the symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and regular physical activity, are key to managing the condition. These steps can help manage weight, improve insulin resistance, and relieve some of the symptoms like menstrual cramps and depression. In addition to lifestyle changes, medication can be used, but this entirely depends on the individual case and the approach of your gynecologist and endocrinologist. 

For women with polycystic ovaries who want to get pregnant, there are a number of options, including drugs such as clomiphene (Clomid) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), which stimulate ovulation and improve the chances of pregnancy. 

Early menopause 

Early menopause, which occurs before the age of 40, can lead to irregular menstruation or its complete cessation. Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Consultation with a doctor is extremely important to manage symptoms and overcome the impact of early menopause on reproductive health. 

For women with thyroid problems, a specialized diet and maintenance of the balance of microorganisms in the gut is recommended. Essential nutrients such as selenium, iodine, vitamin D and zinc support thyroid health. Gut flora balance is essential as it houses a significant portion of our immune system, which is important for people with autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease. Avoiding hormonal birth control is also a good idea, as taking them can exacerbate thyroid-related menstrual disorders. 

In conclusion, a late period can cause stress and worry, but it is important to keep in mind that there are other possible reasons for the delay besides pregnancy. From thyroid problems to chronic stress, weight changes, medications and early menopause, there are many factors that affect reproductive health. Taking a reliable pregnancy test like Surecheck can help rule out pregnancy, allowing you to focus on other conditions with your doctor. Keep calm and remember that there are helpful resources and medical approaches to help you deal with a missed or stopped period effectively. 

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