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Late and Missed Periods

Late and Missed Periods

Sometimes, a period can come later than the normal menstrual cycle, or may fail to appear at all. This can mean several different things. For women during reproductive age, when a period fails to appear all together, then it is considered a missed period and may be an early symptom of pregnancy. If the option of pregnancy is ruled out, in some cases, it's only necessary to do a few lifestyle changes for the menstrual cycle to get back on track. In other cases, particularly if periods have stopped coming, there can be something more serious. Continue reading to learn about late and missed periods, the main causes, and how to treat them.

About Late and Missed Periods

A late period is a common occurrence, particularly for girls who are just starting menstruation, and for women preparing to enter menopause. This is due to changing levels of hormones during these major life stages.

A late period can also be an early symptom of pregnancy. If pregnancy can be ruled out, then being a few days late or missing one period is usually not cause for concern. Usually, a few lifestyle changes will help correct the off-kilter cycle. However, regularly missing periods is cause for concern, either several in a row, or if periods arrive at irregular times. 

When a woman of child-bearing age does not have a menstrual period for more than three cycles in a row, can be said that suffer from a medical condition called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea can occur for a variety of reasons, including hormonal imbalance, endocrine problems, and environmental and lifestyle factors.

There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea occurs when a girl reaches her late teenage years without experiencing her first period. Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who was already menstruating misses more than three periods in a row. In both cases, amenorrhea is more often a symptom of another condition or of hormonal imbalance.

If you are not pregnant and suffer from late or missed periods regularly, then it can be helpful to understand the causes behind and the treatment options available. Continue reading to learn more about late and missed period causes.

Late and Missed Periods Causes

There are many different factors that may throw off the menstrual cycle. They can be divided up into hormonal imbalance and lifestyle factors. One late or missed period may be caused by lifestyle factors, while long-term amenorrhea is usually caused by hormonal imbalance, but can also be caused by lifestyle factors or other structural abnormalities.

Hormonal Imbalance

Sometimes, the levels of sex hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, change in a woman's body. This typically occurs when a woman enters puberty and when she transitions through menopause; however, a hormonal imbalance can be triggered by certain lifestyle habits. The fluctuation of hormone levels may prevent a woman from ovulating regularly and can cause her to experience late or missed periods.

Lifestyle Factors

This group of factors includes different choices that a woman may make that can affect her cycle. These include:

Late and Missed Periods - Lifestyle factors
  • Stress
  • Excessive exercise
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain, especially over a short period of time
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Drugs
  • Certain medication , such as birth control

Other Missed Periods Causes

In addition, amenorrhea can be caused by the following underlying conditions, some of which require medical treatment. These include:

Late and Missed Periods - Causes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (POS)
  • Problems with thyroid function
  • Turner's syndrome
  • Problems with the function of the pituitary gland, such as a tumor
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia
  • Scar tissue in the uterus
  • A blockage in the vagina or cervix
  • Lack of one or more sex organs, due to abnormal fetal development
  • Some medications such as some types of chemical birth control, some antipsychotics and antidepressants, cancer medication, and some types of medication for treating high blood pressure.

In every instance, it is important to seek medical attention for amenorrhea, both to treat the possible underlying conditions and to prevent long-term effects such as infertility. Continue reading to learn more about late or missed periods and its relationship with fertility.

Late and Missed Periods and Fertility

Late and Missed Periods - Fertility

A single late or missed period does not mean that you have fertility problems. However, ongoing irregularity can make it difficult to get pregnant because it can be difficult to keep track of ovulation. In addition, women with amenorrhea can end up with permanent infertility if they do not seek treatment. This is particularly important for people suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia. Since women who struggle with eating disorders often lose a lot of weight in a short period of time, they can experience long-term amenorrhea if they do not get help they need.

It is important for a woman who suspects she has amenorrhea to help from a medical professional, who can make an accurate diagnosis and determine the proper treatments. Continue reading to learn more late and missed periods diagnosis.

Late and Missed Periods Diagnosis

In order to identify the cause of late or missed periods, the physician will usually perform a physical exam and take a medical history. The condition itself is relatively easy to diagnose because the diagnostic criterion is simply the absence of menstrual bleeding, either at the beginning of puberty in primary amenorrhea, or for three consecutive cycles in secondary amenorrhea.

Depending upon the results of the woman's history and physical examination additional diagnostic tests may be required. These tests may include measurements of prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSA), estrogen, thyrotropin, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and testosterone. In addition, blood tests can be used to examine the levels of ovarian, pituitary, and thyroid hormones.  Imaging studies, such as an ultrasound, an X-ray, and a CT or MRI scan may also be performed to help establish the cause of amenorrhea.

Once a diagnosis has been determined, the physician can prescribe the correct treatments. Continue reading to learn more about treatments for late or missed periods.

Late and Missed Periods Treatments

In treating late or missed periods, physicians usually recommend a three-tiered approach, which includes lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, and medication or surgery.  These different options and their effectiveness will depend on the exact causes, and whether the patient has amenorrhea.

Late and Missed Periods - Treatments

Often times, late or missed periods are the result of a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance can be triggered by certain lifestyle habits such as a poor diet and stress, or they can indicate that a woman is transitioning through menopause. Treating late or missed periods can be as simple as eating a well-balanced meal or exercising regularly. The most effective treatment combines lifestyle changes and alternative medicines to help regulate the level of hormones.

If symptoms persist and additional treatment is required, consult a medical professional to identify the cause and develop the appropriate treatment.  Late or missed periods may be caused by underlying health conditions for which a doctor may need to prescribe specific medications or may recommend surgery.

Most experts recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and alternative medicine as a safe and effective way to treat late and missed periods. Click the following link to read a complete and useful list of treatments for late and missed periods.

Sources:
  • -Heiman DL. Amenorrhea. Primary Care. 2001;36:1.
  • -Pletcher JR, Slar GB. Menstrual Disorders . Amenorrhea. Pediatr Clin North Arm 1999, 46:505-18.
  • -Rebar RW, et al. Abnormalities of the reproductive years: Amenorrhea. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.
  • -Welt CK, et al. Etiology, diagnosis and treatment of primary amenorrhea. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 21, 2012.