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Delayed periods: Fret only if delayed beyond 35 days
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Delayed periods: Fret only if delayed beyond 35 days

Delayed or missed periods are not always due to pregnancy. Stress, hormonal disturbances and a sedentary lifestyle can also defer periods, according to experts

Women planning to conceive would have a broad smile with a missed period, but that’s not the case with the rest. A regular menstrual cycle, which is mostly 28 days apart, can become shorter or longer by a week and that is absolutely fine, according to gynecologists. However, a missed or delayed period refers to not having menstruation beyond 35 days from the last menstrual period.

A missed period is often considered the earliest sign of pregnancy. However, for individuals who are not planning to conceive during that time, a missed or delayed period can indeed be a cause for concern and worry. This was the case for Rose Jacob, a 30-year-old working professional from Bangalore when she missed her periods a few months after her marriage in 2020. “When this repeated twice consecutively, I knew something was wrong. Marriage and responsibilities had brought a sudden halt to my exercise routine,” she tells Happiest Health. When this routine fell in place, she had no delayed periods anymore.

A 2019 Korean study suggested that age, socioeconomic status, body mass index, and lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol use, and exercise, are the determining factors for menstrual irregularities.

Is it normal to miss a period?

Irregularities are common in most cases, particularly in younger women, clarifies Dr Geeth Monnappa, senior consultant obstetrics and gynecology, SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore. “If these irregularities in menstruation are accompanied by severe pain or if there is a sudden departure from what had previously been established as normal, then one must consult a doctor,” she adds.

What causes missed or delayed period?

When the uterus does not bleed despite the lack of conception, it indicates an underlying health issue in the woman. Missed or delayed periods are due to a variety of reasons and are explained below:

Stress: Most cases of missed or delayed periods are due to stress, explains Dr Chitwan Dubey, gynecologist, Dr LH Hirandandani Hospital, Mumbai. Stress can be due to anything. It can be due to breaking up with the partner, loss of job, relocation, unemployment, excessive worry or overthinking about anything. Most often stress disrupts the hormonal balance too. A 2015 study by Indian researchers evaluated the effect of stress on menstrual function. This study indicated that women with high stress levels suffered menstrual irregularities.

Sudden increase or decrease in weight: An ideal weight helps in the adequate functioning of ovaries. “Sudden increase in weight or sudden weight loss due to hormonal fluctuations, infections or excessive exercise disturbs the message signals from the brain to ovaries and this affects the production and release of female hormones,” Dr Monnappa. This can hinder the menstruation.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): The reason for delayed or late periods in nearly 30% of women of the age group 20-35 years is linked to PCOS  that leads to hormonal disturbances, says Dr Dubey.

“In this condition, the presence of male hormones (testosterone) is higher than the female hormones,” explains Dr Monnappa. PCOS attacks insulin metabolism and delays periods, adds Dr Dubey. In some cases, it could also cause excessive bleeding and 90% of cases with PCOS are caused by unhealthy lifestyle patterns, she adds.

High prolactin hormones: Excess prolactin hormone (lactation hormone) can also defer periods, describes Dr Dubey. This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland. If this gland swells —primarily due to stress—and increases the prolactin hormones. It can be cured only with medication. This condition affects conception and could cause repeated abortions too, explains Dr Dubey.

Excess thyroid hormones: Thyroid hormones are linked to ovaries. Hypothyroidism (high levels of thyroid) slows down the body’s metabolism causing weight gain. The excess hormones play a role in delaying the periods. 

High testosterone: Excess testosterone levels in a woman’s body leads to hirsutism (excess hair growth or hair loss) marked by hair growth in the face, chin and jawline and hair loss in the scalp, overpowers the estrogen function and delays periods. 

Sudden lifestyle changes: Changes in lifestyle patterns such as not exercising and a sedentary lifestyle can delay periods. Conversely, excessive exercising can also delay periods, adds Dr Monnappa. “A condition, commonly seen in athletes, is caused by poor signals from the brain to ovaries resulting in faulty hormonal production,” she adds. 

A diet lacking iron can cause anemia. Low hemoglobin levels delay periods, explains Dr Dubey.

Infections: Asymptomatic infections can affect the lining of the uterus and can cause excessive bleeding in some cases. “In most cases, it prevents the lining formation in the uterus or forms a scaly lining to not mature further. This could delay or block the periods, explains Dr Dubey.

How to prevent delayed periods

Experts recommend the following lifestyle habits that can help one regularize periods:

Takeaways

When periods are delayed beyond 35 days, one must consult a gynecologist. Delayed or missed periods when one is not pregnant can indicate varied health issues such as PCOS, stress, excessive weight gain or loss, high prolactin or testosterone among others. Repeated delay in periods requires gynecological screening, advise experts.

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