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Why is My Period Late?

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Recently, my period was a whopping 10 days late. After being completely regular for 12 years (I even resumed my normal cycle just two months after going off hormonal contraceptives), my period randomly decided to boycott my predictably punctual monthly schedule.

You would think that 10 days of tampon-less freedom would be enjoyable - even sublime! But alas, that supposedly carefree time was relentlessly cruel and, to be honest, nothing less than excruciating. I'm actually embarrassed to reveal that I foolishly took a pregnancy test each day, hoping for resolve but only receiving confusion. (In honor of Jon Stewart, I affectionately refer to this time as Indecision '09.)

After seven days, my desperation finally led me to my doctor. She conducted a high-falutin' pregnancy test, which was miraculously not affected by human error, a finger smudge on the results window, or drinking three bottles of Diet Coke beforehand. Needless to say, this pee-based exam ruthlessly dealt out a negative analysis, and three days later my period began without apology. Blast you, biology!

Although my faith in science was injured at that point, I knew there must be some way that we women could be redeemed of the purgatory that is an inconclusive pregnancy test. There has to be an answer to this dilemma, one that could be shared with all of womankind! Well, after doing some research, I'm happy to report that I have a few ideas.

1) Menstruation may be delayed if your fertile period (the days before and during ovulation) lasts a little longer than usual. Fertility charting may help you to understand these fluctuations if you find that they happen frequently.

2) We’ve all been told that stress can cause a late period, which seems silly, right? But the root of anxiety lies in the over-production of adrenaline and other stress hormones, and these can all interfere with the production of estrogen, causing hiccups in your menstrual cycle.

3) There’s an old wives’ tale that says you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. The truth is that, while you can still ovulate while breastfeeding (making you fertile), your period may not resume until weeks or months later.

4) Check your meds. Hormonal contraceptives, anti-depressants, and thyroid medications are just a few of the prescriptions that can interfere with your period.

5) Are you on a strict diet? Malnourishment, even if minor, can interfere with your body’s normal functions, as well as excessive physical exertion (i.e. working out).

6) Unfortunately, there are a whole slew of medical conditions that can have an effect on your menstrual cycle. Anything from the flu to thyroid disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and benign tumors can set your cycle off.

While the causes of a late period can often be ruled out quickly, you should always see a doctor if you suspect that something may not be right with your body. If your period is more than a week late I would encourage you to make an appointment to cover all your bases.


Shaina Gaul is a feminist and freelance writer living in Iowa. View more of her writing at http://www.couchSpud.net.

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After my son was born, 2 months later I got my period. The month that followed was regular, same with the next. But at about my third or fourth period after it had resumed my period was 8 days late-- then 10-- then 10 again! Every month I felt like there was something completely wrong with me- a person who, like you, has been regular since I first got my period at 14. I don't know if it was stress or just a change in period but one thing is for sure-- even when you get your period at 38 days, you are definitely still VERY normal and VERY fertile. The fourth month of which I thought my period was late again, I was actually pregnant and fortunately very happy to be!

Thanks for this, I agree with Diane. I think a lot of women on EmpowHer can relate and would love to read that they are definitely not alone.

December 25, 2009 - 4:58pm


I'm so glad you wrote about this!! I will be referring many women to your article in the future, I know. We get many many questions that begin just like your post: "I have been regular for xxx (years or months) and now all of a sudden I am xxx (days or weeks) late for my period." The writers are always worried and most often are, like you, worried about pregnancy.

Thank you so much for writing this, even though I'm sorry you had to go through a bit of anxiety before you did!

December 24, 2009 - 9:20am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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