Beside Pregnancy, What Could Cause Me to Miss a Period?

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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Most of us feel that if our menstrual cycles are normal and regular then our health must be OK, right? All it takes is to miss a period, or for them to become very irregular, for an alarm to go off. Then, we hurry to our gynecologist. It's truly amazing to me how regular most women are. So, suddenly missing a period or having a big change in frequency should not be ignored. Judging by the tears and anxiety in your voices, it can be a significant event.

Most women have between 11 and 13 periods a year. You may be different as you may have more or fewer cycles. Every woman is a little different. Menstrual periods are often irregular in puberty, when our cycles first begin. It may take several years for a woman's hormones to balance, so that ovulation and cycles become regular. Hormone imbalance is what also causes menstrual irregularities when peri-menopause and menopause occur. What surprises many women is that, with menopause, our cycles can become less frequent with less bleeding or more frequent with heavy bleeding and passage of blood clots.

If menopause comes before age 40, it is known as premature ovarian failure. This needs to be checked by your doctor because a special test called an FSH can be done to confirm early menopause. Early menopause can cause many health problems including osteoporosis, strokes, heart disease and emotional and cognitive deficits. It should not be taken lightly.

But, of the many reasons for menstrual irregularities and missed periods, the most common is pregnancy. If you might be pregnant, you are naturally excited, and you should treat yourself as if you are pregnant until you see your doctor and have a pregnancy test. There are several symptoms that are suggestive of pregnancy. These include breast tenderness, nausea and bloating.

But, since these can also be premenstrual symptoms, it can still be confusing until a pregnancy test or an ultrasound are done. If you recently went off the Pill, Depo-Provera injections or just stopped breast-feeding and want to get pregnant, it can take a few months for your periods to return to normal. You will not be able to get pregnant until you start ovulating again. A good sign that you are ovulating again (and are fertile) is when your cycles return and are regular.

Pregnancy is detected by a missed period and through taking a home pregnancy test. Sometimes tests will show up negative if they are done too soon. Home pregnancy tests check for the HCG hormone in our urine, so it is important that they are not done until you miss a period. Only certain kinds of blood tests called Quantitative not Qualitative Beta-HCG can test accurately before a missed period.

It is a good habit to track your cycles, so you know when to expect them, because miscalculation is a common reason for women to think they have a delayed or missed period. Tracking makes it easy to look back and see if you had sex during your fertile time, and it helps keep track of ovulation too. This is beneficial whether you are or are not trying to get pregnant right now. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of any woman like a missed period, and if you are not pregnant, there are other possible causes for missed or irregular periods that need to be looked into.
  • Stress can affect all the messages to our female organs - like GnRh rhythms and hormone balance that can cause menstrual irregularities.
  • Any sudden or chronic illness can also temporarily cause cycle irregularities.
  • Even the stress of traveling is enough to throw off our bodies’ delicate cycles and messenger systems.
  • Problems with our female organs or genitalia, such as a hymen that is closed off or imperforate (which closes the opening of the vagina and prevents the blood from coming out).
  • Asherman's syndrome is a complication that occurs after having surgery in the uterus like a D & C (dilation and curette) which is done in pregnancy terminations. Asherman's syndrome can leave severe intra-uterine scarring, which prevents the uterine lining from thickening each month and causes little or no period.
  • Changing schedules can really throw off your body clock. This is particularly true if you go from days to nights at work or vice versa. If you frequently change shifts, then this may be the reason. Isn't that amazing how sensitive our bodies are?
  • Perhaps you're trying a new medication and realize it is having an effect on your cycles. Then it's important to let your doctor know how it is affecting you. We see the same with women who abuse illegal drugs.
  • Carrying around too much weight can hormonally shift your cycles and even stop them. Most women will see a big change and a return to regular cycles with ovulation even with a 5-10 pound weight loss - even if they are still overweight.
  • Being underweight can cause just as many problems with your cycles. If you do not have enough body fat you will not have regular periods, and sometimes you can even cause your periods to stop altogether. This is called amenorrhea. This is a frequent cause of a missed period in women who work out to an extreme or who are professional athletes. Typically a little weight gain will bring back your periods.
It is a good idea to relax and try to reduce worry and stress. This will help your body recover.

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