Why You Aren't the Next Virgin Mary: 5 Reasons Your Period is Late (That Aren't Pregnancy)

So...you're late for your period. We've all been there, some of us more than others. And regardless if you're sexually active or not, that moment can be filled with an unparalleled panic. 

Now, I am not an avid period-tracker by any means. I have been bleeding for over six years now and even with every uterus tracking app available on the app store, I have (unfortunately) never marked down the beginning of my cycle. The only reason I remembered the start of this specific cycle is because my youngest sister had her first period on the same day. In case you wanted to know, I was bestowed with the honor of receiving a play-by play via Snapchat of my youngest sister, bloody panties in hand, crying to my mother about how awful it was to have a period.

With this graphic reminder in mind, the date February 1st was burned into memory, and I planned on, hopefully, starting again on the 1st of March. And when the day finally arrived, my sister called asking if I started. When I said no, she was worried because she had started while I hadn’t.

And that’s when I started getting worked up for literally no reason.

Granted, ladies, I am not sexually active and had no chance of being pregnant. That’s not your typical naive answer either- I have yet to see a naked penis (with exception to my AP Bio textbook), let alone any rouge semen. A sister ain’t dumb- I know you can’t magically get pregnant unless some swimmers get near your vagina. Does that mean my anxiety knows that? Hell no.

I pulled an Alice and went down the rabbit hole. For a week, I spent an embarrassing amount of time researching about missed periods and causes. I then traveled into the world of Planned Parenthood and abortions, in case I ended up being the next virgin conception. I was worried that I had been pushing myself with my workout routine too much or that I had suddenly lost too much weight at once, or that I had been so stressed in the past month that my body had put my fertility on hold. In the midst of all this anxiety, I became anxious that my anxiety was causing my period to become delayed even further.

Then came March 8th, two days before I told myself I would take a pregnancy test for the sake of confirming that my prefrontal cortex was right: YOU AREN’T FREAKING PREGNANT. I woke up, went to the bathroom, and there it was. Bloody underwear. I was officially a fertile, healthy, non-pregnant, just a week-late, college student again!

Regardless of the anxiety hell week I had to suffer through leading up to this moment (currently, those panties are soaking in some cold water), I learned a lot about periods that every uterus-owner should know about late periods, and what they really mean. 

*Just a heads up, I’m not a licensed physician. I just have an anxious uterus. This is information I found on many credible women’s health websites, but hunty, I don’t know your life. Don’t take it as medical advice. You’re talking to a girl who believed you could magically get pregnant okay. Call up your physician if you want legitimate, tailored advice for your uterus.

Your cycle fluctuates from 21-35 days.

If you have had a period for longer than 4-5 years, your cycle can still fluctuate within 3-5 weeks from your last start date. So, if you’re a little early or a little late, you have no need to worry. But if you are more than 9 days late from your expected start date, you should take action. If you are sexually-active, take a pregnancy test and if it comes back negative, consider seeing your OB/GYN. If you are not sexually-active, also consider seeing your OB/GYN.

Exercise can affect your cycle

If you are an athlete or have recently had a serious increase in your physical activity, your body may delay or skip a period. Don’t worry- this is a normal process. If your body is using more resources to build muscle or fuel some cardio, your body is designed to discount the future (in this case, having a baby) to deal with the present. If you suspect exercise may be hindering your cycle, see your OB/GYN and make sure you are getting in enough calories so your body can sustain both your workout routine and your ovulation.

Stress can affect your cycle

If you are stressed during your ovulatory period, your body will again discount the future to take care of you now. When cortisol is in abundance in your blood, your body believes that a lion is chasing you (or in other words, your physiology midterm), and you better haul ass. Your body knows it has no right to worry about creating the second generation if the first is about to get eaten. A delayed ovulation will then lead to a delayed period since ovulation triggers hormone production that lead to a period about two weeks later. Again, go see your OB/GYN if this may be your problem

You’ve lost or gained a dramatic amount of weight.

If you are a little bloated from pizza, and are up 5 pounds on the scale, this ain’t it. Any difference in 10-15 pounds can offset your cycle, especially if you’ve lost, not gained, that weight. Leptin, a hormone that measures fat percentage in your body, can encourage as well as disrupt a period. If you body’s leptin levels are too low (therefore meaning you aren’t eating enough fat or have enough fat stores), your body will delay an ovulation/period cycle, because your body doesn’t think you have enough fat to sustain a healthy pregnancy. If you think this may be your problem, see your OB/GYN. If you are losing or gaining large amounts of weight in short periods of time, you may want to also see a counselor about any body image or body harm issues you may be facing.

It’s a fluke

Bodies screw up. For the most part, our bodies run like well-oiled machines, but sometimes there’s a jam in the cogs. A missed period can simply be that- a missed period without cause.

There are two lessons to take from this article- one is to see your women’s health practitioner when a problem arises. The men and women who look at vaginas and uteruses all day long are here to help, and their skill sets far exceed the routine pap smear, and putting your foot in those dreaded stirrups. If you have a problem, set up your appointment. But even when you are regular and nothing seems off, consider still going to yearly exams. For most of us, if you have a uterus at birth, you have a uterus for life. Once that uterus can possibly hold a child, you better make sure your ship is sailing smoothy. The second is you need to know your body. Granted, expecting a period because you knew your last cycle and the period not arriving is anxiety- inducing (i.e. me), but getting to know your cycle in pivotal. Not only will you be able to pinpoint where or why you may be experiencing delays or early arrivals of your period, but also understand the signs of your period. While I was anxiously anticipating my period, I remembered some of my PMS symptoms, which include morning cramps about 2-3 days prior to actually starting, and uncontrollable urges to eat cheese. When these symptoms started arriving, I was relieved slightly because I knew they aligned with my cycle. Tune into your symptoms and plan accordingly. I find that exercising (especially cardio and abs) before my cycle reduces my cramps, and eating some pizza has calmed a lot of my grumpiness/irritation during PMS. At the end of the day, this is your uterus and you have to deal with it everyday. Might as well make your life happier and healthier by making friends with your shedding uterus.

 

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