A delayed period can be really stressful for women who usually have regular periods. The best way to deal with this anxiety is to educate oneself about the situation.
The first and the most important thing is to know what is normal and what is abnormal so that you are not stressed by a mere normal variation of your menstrual cycle!
Menstrual cycle: The time from the day a menstrual period starts to the time the next period starts.
An average menstrual cycle is about 28 days long. However, a normal cycle may be shorter or longer and may range anywhere from 21 to 35 days long.
The factors that may cause variation in a menstrual cycle are- Stress, travel, diet, illness, medication, contraceptive pills, excessive exercise, being on extremes of body weight range-either low weight or overweight, hormonal imbalances such as thyroid hormone imbalances and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), infections of the genital tract.
To know if or not your period is actually delayed, it is important that you have regular cycles – the dates and the length of the cycle must be known to you. It can be difficult to know for sure if your period is late if you don’t know your average cycle length and the date of your last period.
Quick tip 1- if you have trouble remembering the dates or maintaining calendars- there are many apps online that can help you. Downloading one and feeding the date per month can really help.
If you have a regular cycle then a variation of 5-7days is considered to be normal. A menstrual period is considered to be late if it hasn’t started 7 or more days after the day you expected it to start. A period is said to be missed if there is no menstrual flow for 6 or more weeks after the start of the last period.
What is to be done in case of the delayed or missed period depends on the following factors-
Whether you have a regular cycle or not
Whether you are sexually active or not; If sexually active, whether you are using contraception; If yes, which method?
Whether you suffer from any major hormonal imbalance disorders such as hypothyroidism or PCOS or any other chronic health issues
If your cycles are regular and you have been sexually active, then it is advised to take a pregnancy test if your period is around 9-10 days late. In case of getting a negative result, it is advisable to wait for another week and repeat the test. If your cycles are irregular and you have been sexually active then you can take a pregnancy test about two weeks after your last unprotected sexual encounter.
If you are not sexually active and yet have missed periods, it is advisable to visit your doctor after observing for at least 1 more cycle.
If the pregnancy tests came out to be negative and you still haven’t had a period in more than 90 days, it is important to meet with your doctor for a detailed evaluation and testing on what could be the cause in delay of the period.
Quick tip 2- having a log of periods (dates, duration, any stressful activities, changes in diet, recent fitness activity, any recent illness, any changes that were observed in the previous period) for at least a month before visiting your doctor can come really handy!
Dr. Afroze Fatima