Your long-awaited date night is finally here. You were beginning to feel a bit like a crazy cat lady left to your own devices, destined to fend for yourself (and your 100 cats) for surely the rest of eternity. When his text came, you tried to play it cool, but seriously(!), you’re floating on cloud nine and this guy is worthy of all the single time you diligently clocked. You pulled out all the stops -- you straightened your unruly hair, donned your racy new lingerie, shaved your legs, and even went the extra mile to wax your lady bits. You feel empowered and ready. You are a vision. You exude poise and grace. You are absolutely ravishing and he is bound to…Wait a minute! Is that…?
Of course it is. Even though you use your period tracking app, it doesn't seem able to control when your period will arrive. Well, it's two weeks late and decided to arrive just in time for your date night. Adios to your hopes of knocking boots and shaking off those cobwebs. Farewell to fantasies of date night turning into date morning and date brunch. You wonder if Mr. Wonderful likes pajama parties and curling up to romantic comedies because your unexpected and heavy flow looks like it’s going to keep you close to home tonight.
If irritatingly irregular flows are holding back your love life, it might be time to examine these 15 reasons for irregular periods.
15 Excessive Weight Gain or Weight Loss
Experiencing minor shifts in weight is normal. You had an active social life last week, ate your weight in burgers and fries, enjoyed a few too many cold ones, and you gained five pounds. This week, you were unusually motivated, woke up and hit the pavement in time for sunrise, stretched and did yoga on the daily, ate like a clean eating goddess, and you lost five pounds. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate, usually within a few pounds to five pounds, depending on your lifestyle. However, excessive weight gain or weight loss can be the cause of your irregular flow. When you gain weight, your estrogen levels increase, which can cause bleeding. If you lose weight, or deal with eating disorders, the extreme weight loss affects your body’s regular production of fat and estrogen, which can affect your body’s ability to ovulate. Balance is key, so healthy nutrition and lifestyle are important in regulating your rhythm.
Jet-setting not only affects your bank account, it can also affect your regularly scheduled cycle. That’s right, don’t forget to pack a few emergency tampons in your travel bag, alongside your flip flops and sunhat, as world travel can change your expected menstrual due date. Women’s bodies are sensitive to sudden lifestyle changes and travel is no exception. This change in your regular routine can delay your period, or you may miss it altogether. Travel includes flying, time zone changes, jet lag, changes in diet and exercise, and stress, all of which can impact your cycle. While you’re adjusting to another language, exotic new flavors and stunning scenery and sights, your body is acclimating to all these sudden changes as well. Travel involves lots of excitement, but it can also create a lot of stress, which directly impacts your internal biological clock and it’s not unusual for a delayed or missed period as you trot the globe.
13 Issues with Your Birth Control or Contraceptives
Birth control pills and other contraceptives affect your body’s regular production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. As birth control changes your body’s chemistry and hormone levels, it is common for many women to experience irregular cycles or disrupted periods. These medicines can affect the length of your period, the heaviness of your flow and the frequency of your cycle. Birth control and other contraceptives (like intrauterine devices) affect each woman differently, and certain birth controls may be better suited to your unique genetic makeup. Every birth control method has different levels and types of hormones. If you’re new to birth control, it’s normal for your body to go through an adjustment period, wherein your cycle may be irregular. Over time, this should level out as your body adjusts to the changes in hormones, and your flow should become more regular. Always consult with your doctor to ensure you are taking the best birth control for you.
12 High Stress Levels
Your body is an intuitive, responsive and highly sensitive system. You respond to your environment and sometimes, depending on what’s going on in your life, you may respond negatively to your external life circumstances. Stress, anxiety and other negative emotions can directly impact your health, and this includes your menstrual cycle. Any disruption or change can be enough to offset your regular rhythm. High stress levels may cause your period to be irregular, or your period may temporarily stop altogether. Stress can feel crippling and it can completely throw your hormones off. These hormonal imbalances lead to the irregularity of your menstrual cycle. It’s important to get to the root of your stress and reduce these symptoms. If you’ve been working overtime, treat yourself to a beach vacation. If your relationship is erratic and unstable, maybe it’s time to move towards more stable love. By reducing your stress, you may help your body return to its regular schedule.
11 Food Allergies
No, you didn’t read that wrong and yes, believe it or not, food allergies can impact your regular flow. Your cycle is based on your hormonal levels and allergies like celiac disease and gluten sensitivities or intolerance can directly impact your body’s production of hormones. If you’ve been scratching your head over your consistently irregular period, it’s possible you could have an undiagnosed food allergy or intolerance. If you suffer from a gluten specific allergy, when you consume gluten, the small intestine can become inflamed, slowing the time it takes for nutrients to pass through your large intestine and body. This means estrogen and other hormones may be stored in your body for longer periods of time, which can create hormonal imbalances (which affects your normal ovulation). If you’re uncertain about having a food allergy, try omitting gluten from your diet for seven to 14 days to see if you notice a difference or any alleviated symptoms (less constipation, gas, bloating, headaches or pain).
10 Environmental Toxins
Environmental toxins are all around you and you might not even know it. They’re lurking in the form of plastic Tupperware and Teflon cookware; they’re in your skincare and hygiene products (yes, you rub that stuff on your skin!), in your household cleaning products, and even in pesticides coating some of the food you eat. These products are laden with chemicals that can disrupt your hormones, changing your body’s natural rhythm and production of hormones like estrogen. Prolonged exposure to these hormone disrupting toxins can have harmful side effects on your body and reproductive system, including missed or irregular menstruation. Now that’s scary stuff! You can prevent these negative effects on your body by avoiding products that contain chemicals and toxins. Read labels on your cosmetics and personal care products. Steer clear of parabens and BPA plastics and choose products that are void of diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) and monoethanolamine (MEA).
Your best friend asked for some sisterly sweat support (because getting fit is always more fun with a friend). You were hesitant at first but then on second thought, you decided that a marathon sounded like a great way to get back into running. Now you’re making up for lost time, hitting the gym daily, and trail running every other day. When you commit to something, you really commit! It’s great you’re taking care of your physical health, but over-exercising and a rapid increase in high intensity exertion can stress your body and affect your menstruation. Women who subject their bodies to intense exercise can experience irregular or missed periods. While moderate exercise is healthy and recommended, over-exertion can actually stress and disrupt your body’s natural production of estrogen and other hormones. Because your glands are working overtime to produce stress hormones like cortisol, there is little energy left for your body to produce the estrogen you require for ovulation.
8 Poor Diet
There’s nothing like a good Ben and Jerry’s ice cream binge when your day has got the best of you, but regular binges of high sugar foods and hydrogenated fats can take a serious toll on your waistline and reproductive system. A diet high in sugar, artificial foods, harmful fats and pesticides can stress your body and impact your adrenal and thyroid glands. This can stress your body, releasing stress hormones like cortisol, which can impact your body’s healthy, normal production of estrogen. On the other end of the spectrum, starving yourself and depleting yourself of nutrients can also stress your body and cause your body to go into conservation mode. Your body won’t be able to produce the hormones you need for ovulation because it is on hunger strike. To get back into regular cycles, try to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods that keep you fuller for longer. Avoid processed foods and sugars, and opt for high antioxidant foods found in berries, nuts and greens.
7 Major Life Changes
You might not link your devastating breakup or recent relocation to a new apartment (it was only a few blocks away!) to your irregular flow, but these major life changes can affect your regularly scheduled monthly flow. Even if you don’t like schedules (you’re definitely not the planner in your friend group), your body does. Your body is in sync and follows a cycle. When major life changes happen (break ups, moves and relocations, career changes, loss of a loved one) your body might experience more anxiety and stress, which can create hormone imbalances. You may not realize your body is being impacted (you swear you feel fine!), but if you miss your period, or your period is late (or early), it’s your body’s way of communicating that it is feeling the stress. You may have higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and because your body is working overtime to produce these hormones, your reproductive hormones take a temporary backseat.
6 Hormonal Imbalances and Disorders
Temporary stress and life changes are enough to delay or stop your monthly flow, but if you’ve been experiencing more balance and stress-free living and your period is still irregular and unpredictable, it may be time to examine other potential causes. If your period is wildly erratic, shorter or longer than usual, or unusually heavy, the cause of this may be a hormonal imbalance. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) is an endocrine system disorder that causes hormonal imbalances. With POS, small cysts grow on the ovaries. These small cysts, though harmless, lead to hormone imbalances, affecting the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone. Another condition called prolactinoma also affects your reproductive hormones. The development of a non-cancerous tumour on the pituitary gland causes the body to overproduce prolactin, causing a decrease in estrogen levels. While these disorders aren’t common, if you worry that something more serious is delaying your period, talk to your doctor.
5 Eating Disorders
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders can wreak havoc physiologically and psychologically. With anorexia, the body is starved of calories and essential nutrients, which can lead to decreased estrogen levels and the eventual absence of menstruation (amenorrhea). The body requires healthy fats to produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and when your system is depleted of these nutrients, your period can become irregular or stop altogether. In bulimia nervosa, the repetitive yo-yo-ing cycle of binging and regular purging also affects the body’s fat storage. Your regularly occurring monthly cycle is your body’s way of communicating that all is healthy and well. When your period becomes sporadic or ceases, your body is crying out that something is amiss. If you suspect your negative eating habits may be contributing to your period irregularity, the best thing you can do it talk to someone who cares about you. Then you can seek the emotional and physical counsel you deserve.
4 Transmitted Diseases
Your new sexual partner has a lot of baggage, and not just the emotional kind. Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that spread when you get undercover and share skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has an infection (which may be potentially unknown to them). Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV/aids can cause bleeding between periods and amenorrhea. These infections affect the body’s immune system, which can cause your body undue stress, and affect your natural hormone production levels. Before you decide to knock boots with your current crush, it’s important to discuss sexual health and safety. You should visit your gynecologist or doctor and get checked after sleeping with someone new, as your partner could have contracted an infection with a previous partner. Symptoms of sexually transmitted infections can sometimes be invisible (especially for men), and therefore, you could have one and not even know it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
3 Thyroid Issues
You may be surprised to hear that a small gland located in your neck plays a huge part in your growth and development, but that’s exactly what the thyroid does. The thyroid gland secretes hormones responsible for regulating your metabolism, which is how your body stores and uses energy. If you’ve been experiencing irregular periods and you’re at a loss for the cause, it’s a good idea to have this gland examined by your doctor. Some individuals may suffer from thyroid issues and show no symptoms, while others may exhibit more severe and obvious symptoms such as respiratory or cardiovascular issues. Hyperthyroidism and other thyroid issues can play a huge part in menstrual irregularities because it causes your body to overproduce the hormone prolactin, which affects your ovulation and can halt your menstruation. Your body’s normal production of estrogen is slowed when you have hyperthyroidism, directly affecting your monthly lady cycle.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but many women have irregular or missed periods and may be pregnant without even being aware. Normally, your period cycles approximately every 25 to 30 days. Once a woman becomes pregnant, normal menstruation ceases. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant if your period is late or you skipped this month altogether. If you’re sexually active and missed your regularly occurring dot though, it’s always a good idea to take a pregnancy test first, so that you can check this off your list of suspected causes. Depending on when the intercourse occurred in your menstrual cycle, it’s possible that you may have become impregnated and still had your ovulation afterwards. Some women may confuse implantation spotting for their period, as it resembles a light period. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to use contraceptives to decrease your chances of an unwanted pregnancy.
Menstruation is occurring earlier for young women than it has in past decades (potentially due to changes in diet, environmental toxins and stress), but usually, most women experience their first ovulation (menarche) between ten to 15 years of age and their last ovulation (menopause) between 40 to 50 years. Normally, when you experience your first ovulation (remember how scary that dark spot of blood was?), it might take some time for your body to fall into a regular rhythm and cycle, so irregular menstruation and varying cycle lengths are normal. For young women in their twenties and thirties, irregular and missed periods can be indicators of other potentially problematic issues. As you age and approach menopause, you will experience more irregularities in your cycle as your body prepares for the end of menstruation. Around this time, it’s normal for your period to vary in lightness and heaviness, and for your period to be irregular.