Most often swamped by busy schedules, women tend to be quite forgetful about the exact dates of their periods and tracking of the menstrual cycles. A day or two of delay in the period is completely normal and such it is quite rare that they tend to occur exactly on the expected date at all times. However, if there is considerable delay, this might lead to a bit of a worry. In this article, let us try to understand how exactly the menstrual cycle runs, when is a period considered to be late and what needs to be done about it.
First and foremost, Let us try and understand the menstrual cycle itself. The menstrual cycle is the time from the day the menstrual period starts until the time the next period starts. On an average, this is said to be 28 days. As indicated above, a plus or minus of a few days is allowed. That is, this cycle could be shorter or longer from one person to another. It can stretch anywhere between 21 to 35 days long. The duration of the menstrual period is also said to be anywhere between 3 to 5 days but it can also range between 2 to 7 days. For example, if someone’s period is expected to be on the 1st day of the month, it need not occur exactly on the 1st but anywhere between 25th of the same month to 5th or 6th of that month.
So what happens if the menstrual period does not begin even after the 6th day as mentioned above. If a menstrual period has not started 5 or more days after it is expected to begin, it is considered as a delay or late menstrual cycle. A period is considered missed if you have had no menstrual flow for 6 or more weeks after the start of your last period. ‘Missed’ should not be understood as it has not occurred at all. If it is beyond 5 days than the expected date, it is considered ‘Late’ and beyond 6 weeks or 10 days of the expected late, it is considered to have ‘Missed’ the exact date.
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Is it a cause of worry or more importantly why does that even happen? Late or Missed periods are very common during the first couple of menstruation times, that is during teenage years as the body is still adjusting to the growth and the eggs may not be released every month. This sort of phenomenon can occur up to 2 years of attaining menarche and is not a cause of worry unless and until there is no problem with the physical body. Once the hormones have matured and synchronized over the years, the cycle becomes fairly regular.
There are cases where the menstrual period can be late or missed even in later years. Now, this could be due to Pregnancy, Stress, or Hormonal imbalance.
- Pregnancy – One can miss their periods if they are pregnant and that is the most plausible cause majority of the time, especially when one has an active sexual life. The best way to be sure and handle the situation is to visit the doctor to confirm pregnancy rather than rely completely upon a pregnancy kit as they can tend to provide unclear or incorrect results. It is always better to take care of pregnancy at the early stages
- Stress – One need not emphasize on effects that stress can cause. It activates hormones that help in suppressing those activities that are not essential for survival – such as reproductivity. Under stress, the body goes into fight or flight mode and can temporarily stop ovulation. It could be any kind of stress
- Emotional Stress – Facing an examination or a break-up, financial stress among others.
- Physical Stress – A severe illness, a sexually transmitted disease, rapid weight loss or gain, strenuous exercise, dieting, binge eating and purging, any sort of the change in regular routine can affect the menstrual cycle.
- Hormonal Imbalance – Hormones related to glands such as the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or ovaries are other rare causes of irregular periods. It could be due to over or under secretion or any kind of imbalance that causes changes in the periods. Also, the consumption of birth control pills adds to the cause. Problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome can affect a young woman’s menstrual cycle. Polycystic ovaries may cause irregular cycles, more body hair, acne, and weight gain. It can be treated with hormone therapy. Another reason for the delay in periods could be due to Premenopausal (the time leading up to Menopause – mid to late 40’s) or Early Menopausal stages.
- Increase or decrease in weight – Extreme increases or decreases in body fat, for example, can lead to a hormonal imbalance that can cause periods to come late or stop entirely.
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So what kind of precautions can one undertake to prevent the menstrual cycles from being late or missed?
- Tracking your period – First of all, it is a good practice to keep a tab on the dates of the menstrual cycle. This piece of information is very useful for the doctor in diagnosing and treatment. In today’s day and age, technology can be leveraged, where several Mobile Apps can help keep track (Period Tracker, Flo, Clue. Life, Eve, Cycles and many more)
- Eating healthy and watching overweight – It is very important to eat healthy – more intake of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts, and dry fruits than junk food. A balanced diet is always important. If one is overweight (check the Body Mass Index, BMI, or even with your doctor), exercising and dieting becomes important. If one is underweight, ensuring that one gets sufficient nutrition is helpful. A nutritionist will be able to give out good advice
- Strenuous exercising – If one is a fitness freak and enjoys exercising more than average, maybe cutting down on exercise during the days leading up to the period is beneficial. If not, changes in the diet can be made or help can be sought for an ideal program
- Stress Management – It sounds as if the word Stress Management is overrated, but it cannot be stressed enough. Several measures such as yoga, meditation or even time management can help in reducing stress levels
When one is in doubt, it is best to consult the experts at Janisthaa Fertility Centre, headed by Dr. Swetha, at Basaveshwar Nagar for the best results. Consultations are also made online with appointments that can be sought through the website – http://jnaistha.local/ or through a phone call – +91 7619198083