Late Period but Not Pregnant? Here's Why
I'm like you, I Google everything before bringing it up in a panic with my doctor. Here's the thing, I'm not actually a doctor and this article isn't meant to be a diagnosis or used as medical advice. Use this article to jot down ideas and talking points to discuss with your healthcare provider.
If you're a woman you've been there - staring at the calendar, counting the days, doing the math, pretty sure something isn't quite adding up. It's your period, it's late, and omg, why?
WHY IS YOUR PERIOD LATE?
ARE YOU PREGNANT?!
ARE YOU SICK?
ARE YOU PREGNANT?!
ARE YOU DYING?!
YOU ARE PREGNANT
Except you're not. After taking at least seven pregnancy tests (but probably more) you're pretty sure you're not. So now what?! Why is your period late if you're not pregnant?
Top Reasons Your Period Might Be Late
- You ovulated late
- You're exercising more or less than usual
- You're not eating enough
- You're nearing menopause
- You've recently been down with a cold, flu or other virus or infection
- Stress is getting to you
- You're dealing with a treatable medical condition that messes with your period
- Your schedule or sleep patterns have recently changed
- Your meds are goofing up your period
- You're breastfeeding
Reasons for a Late Period
You Ovulated Late
Ovulating late is the most obvious and common reason that periods are a few days behind schedule. Contrary to period calculators and cycle predictors, periods don't follow an exact rhythm, however it all centers around when you've ovulated. If you ovulated on a later schedule this month than you have in the past then your period will appear late when really it's right on time according to your late ovulation. Unless you're tracking your ovulation through a reliable method (like tracking your basal body temperature or utilizing ovulation kits) then you don't really know the exact day when you ovulated, thus making predicting the exact start of your menstrual cycle a bit tricky!
You Didn't Ovulate at All
For some of us, our cycle is like clockwork every single month then all of the sudden, bam, late period. Sometimes the cause of a late period isn't pregnancy or even delayed ovulation, rather that you haven't ovulated at all. So why would you just not ovulate? From a hormone imbalance to polycystic ovary system (PCOS) there's actually a lot of different reasons you might not ovulate one month or that you may stop ovulating for a few months straight like...
You Have Recently Changed Your Exercise Habits
So maybe you're a couch potato who just started training for a marathon (no judgement and congrats on the marathon ambitions), or your mom just bought you your first FitBit and you're absolutely annihilating your sister-in-law in the Daily Step Challenges. Awesome, right?!
Yes! Except for that whole evolution thing. When you exert your body beyond it's usual efforts then that primal, ancestral instinct that was long-forgotten generations upon generations ago sometimes rears it's ugly head and says "Wow, you're running a lot, maybe you're being chased by bears all of the time. The last thing we're going to do here is let you grow a baby because that's going to require a lot of fat and rest, something you don't really have room in your life for, because you are running from bears almost constantly. Surely if you become pregnant you will die and so will your twenty other children whom you care for and then a third of earth's total population will cease, so yeah, we're just gonna put that ovulation on hold."
Damn, your body is really smart.
But since hopefully you're not actually being chased by bears every day like your great, great, great (repeat this like a hundred or so times) grandma once was, so go ahead and put your feet up, enjoy a little Netflix and a pint of Chunky Monkey and give your bod a chance to catch up to current day issues - like ovulating so you can start your period.
You're Not Eating Enough
All of my friends are on a diet. Some of them just eat particular fruits while others eat all of the meat. If you're on a diet that works for you, cool, but if it's caused you to lose an excessive amount of weight (around eight pounds a month is a healthy loss goal, anything more than that can be considered excessive) recently then it's possible that OMG BEARS! Your body is going to think the bears are after you, that maybe you've been running from bears too much and there aren't enough berries in the forest and you are going to die of starvation because why else would you suddenly be dropping so.much.wight? According to evolution, a starving woman is no place to home a fetus so that ovulation gets axed.
See? Are you starting to see how this whole late period thing works now?
Your Body is Nearing Menopause
The first time I got my period, I cried in the bathroom of a pizza parlor. I was 12 and way too young for this shit.
You're probably feeling the same way about menopause. Here's the thing though, evolution. I should have just named this article Evolution: Why Your Period is Such a Sneaky Sneak.
But it's the truth, life was a lot shorter back in the stone age (or whenever) and peeps were having babies real young and dying by thirty. This is probably why perimenopause, the brief stage before actual menopause, can begin as early as a woman's 30's or 40's. If you made it that long way back when, you were definitely not in a position to be having more kids, especially after decades of running from bears. If you're in your 30's or 40's and experiencing late or missed periods along with symptoms like hot flashes, low sex drive, and fatigue you may be entering the early stages of menopause.
You Are or Have Recently Been Sick
Did you have the sniffles last week? Are you in the throes of a wretched stomach virus? Catching the latest illness-of-the-week won't just put you out of work and leave you with a pile of backed up laundry and dishes, getting sick can also be a signal to your body that you're not well enough to reproduce (and I mean, that's probably true, no one wants to baby dance when they have diarrhea), delaying your ovulation which can cause your period to be seriously late, maybe even by a whole cycle. So if you're two weeks late for your period and still pulling stark white BFNs on those pregnancy tests take a deep breath, guzzle some water and get your health back in business so your body can get on track to returning to it's regularly scheduled ovulation.
Back to that evolution thing, your body is really scared of bringing a baby into the picture when you can barely handle that bear that has come to kill you and your whole family. Because seriously, how are you going to simultaneously grow a fetus while fending off a predator with only a few scarce berries in your stomach?
But now the bear is a late mortgage payment or a failed college class or your parent's divorce (or your divorce) and your period is MIA which is stressing you out even more.
No period = no ovulation = no baby growing = maybe you will have the energy to survive this bear fight and continue to carry on human existence for another generation.
If you think your period is late due to stress it's time to take a hard look at your circumstance and make a plan of attack for how to deal with the bears in your life so you can be chill enough to get your cycle and your life back on track.
You're Dealing with a Treatable Medical Condition
In some cases, a missed period could be a sign of a medical condition like a thyroid disorder, a non-cancerous tumor, or even scar tissue from a previous procedure, all of which require medical diagnosis to treat.
You're Working a New Shift
By now you're probably like, "okay, wow, what CAN'T affect my period."
Which brings us to: Taking on a new shift at work can totally cause your period to be late.
Simply put, our circadian rhythm controls a whole slew of other biological rhythms (like ovulation) and if you're taking on a new shift at work, or your shifts are constantly changing, you're probably not getting regular sleep or sticking to a solid bedtime with can interrupt your circadian rhythm. Messed up circadian rhythm can = messed up menstrual cycle.
Many medications, from birth control to anti-psychotics can cause missed periods. If you're taking any meds, read up on the side effects to find out if late or missed periods are one of them.
You Are Breastfeeding
I'm going to blame this one on evolution too, since in the way back when, it would have been hard to find enough food to eat to produce breast milk and nourish a growing fetus (two things that make you pretty darn hungry) at the same time. So if you're one of the lucky ones who haven't had a period since you started breastfeeding then chances are it's as simple as that - you're breastfeeding. The hormones that tell your body to make milk also tell your body to quit making things cozy for a new baby, so you stop ovulating for a while.
Or you're like me and you're celebrating your baby's first birthday while cookin' another bean and trying not to puke all over the birthday girl's cupcakes.
When to Call Your Doctor
Some sites will say to call your doctor when you're almost dead. But I say, call your doctor when you feel like it. If you're late for or skip one period and have no other obvious symptoms you're probably good to wait and see what happens next month, but if you're really concerned or just curious, call 'em up and have a chat about what concerns you should look out for and what constitutes a visit to the office.
Apps That Track Your Period
If you want to get an idea of when you can expect your period to arrive you should definitely be using one of these apps to track your cycle and receive notifications on when you're coming up to your fertile window, when you should be starting your period, and when you're officially late. Plus, these apps take data from all of your past cycles to help determine things like what symptoms are typical for you on certain days of your cycle along with helpful tips for making your period symptoms as bear-able as possible. (See what I did there?)
- Clue Period Tracker: Period & Ovulation Tracker
- Pink Pad
- Life Period Tracker, Health, Calendar, Ovulation
- Flo Period Tracker: Period & Ovulation Tracker
Tools to Track Your Ovulation
One of the smartest ways to track your period is to know when exactly you've ovulated. If you've ever leafed through your mom's copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility or browsed BabyCenter at all then you already know that the best way to track your ovulation is by monitoring your basal body temperature with a BBT thermometer or through at-home ovulation tests. A few options to track your ovulation include:
- A digital BBT thermometer. With this tool you can manually track your basal body temperature throughout your cycle to know on which day you ovulate.
- A bluetooth BBT thermometer. Instead of manually recording your BBT with a digital thermometer, a bluetooth BBT thermometer and app does the work for you, all you have to do is remember to take your temp. Without much effort you'll know exactly when you're about to ovulate each month, giving you a solid idea of when to expect your period.
- At home ovulation test kits. These are a lot like pregnancy tests, only instead of telling you if you're pregnant, these tests tell you if you're ovulating without all of the extra effort of tracking your temperature.
What's your favorite period tracker and why? Leave a comment below!
Questions & Answers
If my period is ten days late, should I take another pregnancy test?
If your period is ten days late or more, and you haven’t taken a pregnancy test in a few days, then yes you should take another one, but only if you’ve recently had sex. Sometimes you can be pregnant, but the test takes a little longer to turn positive because the hormones that tell the test if you’re pregnant are taking a little longer to build up in your body.
Now, if you haven’t recently had sex and your period is going on almost two weeks late, there’s no need to take a pregnancy test. Your period isn’t late because you’re pregnant, it’s late because you’ve either ovulated late or not at all. So, take note if you’ve recently had a change in your sleep schedule, been under more stress than usual, lost some weight or just got over a virus. These are all things that can contribute to a delayed or skipped ovulation and you must ovulate to start your period.
If your next cycle doesn’t come either then it’s time to call up your gynecologist or primary doctor and let them know what’s up so they can make sure you’re not dealing with a treatable condition like a thyroid disorder.
Can a late period cause nausea, even if you aren't pregnant?
If your period is late and you’re feeling nauseous, you’re probably quick to think you’re pregnant. But if you haven’t had sex recently or you’ve taken a pregnancy test and it’s come back negative then why the nausea? Isn’t that a classic pregnancy symptom? Yep, but it’s also a classic symptom of PMS because before your body begins it’s menstrual cycle it releases prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, in really simple terms are chemicals that start reacting all over your body and they make you feel as weird as pregnancy hormones can. It’s natural, it’s normal but it’s really annoying and one of the nasty feelings that the release of prostaglandins can give you is nausea which can lead to vomiting (though just because you’re nauseous before your period doesn’t mean you’ll throw up).
You probably feel some level of nausea leading up to your period most cycles anyway, but if you’re late you’re definitely going to notice it more because now you’re paying more attention to your body and wondering when you’re going to finally start your freaking cycle and the nausea is just adding to the drama.
Personally, the later my period is, the worse my premenstrual symptoms get including sensitivity to smell, body aches, fatigue and yes, nausea. I don’t have an explanation for this since I’m not a doctor, but I bet it’s not too uncommon for other women as well.
The way I combat this nasty symptom is to just take it easy on myself. I take more breaks throughout the day, make sure I’m eating well (and enough) so I don’t add more nausea to the mix, and try to get to bed a little earlier (though that’s hard with two kids sometimes).
*Deep sigh* Sometimes being a woman is just hard. Especially the week before our period.
Why is my period late but I’m cramping?
You’re cramping because your period is probably on its way! Nothing is more frustrating than a late period - except a late period with symptoms that feel like your period should be starting any minute. If your cycle is a few days late, but you’re starting to cramp, then there’s a good chance that you actually are about to start and, for whatever reason, your cycle was just delayed. This is especially so if you’ve taken a pregnancy test since your period became late and it came back absolutely negative.
A few things that can cause your period to be late are sickness (like a recent cold or stomach virus), stress (like waiting to find out if you got the job you interviewed for), and a change in your sleep schedule (like dealing with insomnia). That’s because these things can delay your ovulation and the timing of our period is really determined by when we ovulate - periods typically start around two weeks (14 days) after the start of ovulation. That means if you were really stressed about that huge job interview you had, and that delayed your ovulation by five days, then there’s a good chance your period will be five days late too!
Now, if your cycle is late, if you’ve recently had unprotected sex, you’re cramping and you haven’t taken a pregnancy test, now would be the time! Cramping happens when your body is preparing to shed that lovely uterine lining, but it’s also a super common early pregnancy symptom that I personally experienced each time and it happens because hey, there’s a lot going on in that region during the first few weeks after conception including the stretching of your uterus.
Does that mean that every time your period is late, you could be pregnant? No way! More often than not, a late period is simply that, and the cramping is just an indication that it’s finally on its way. If you experience late periods for several cycles, it’s not a bad idea to bring it up with your primary doctor of your gynecologist since that can be a sign of a treatable thyroid condition and other benign but treatable issues that will make your life a lot easier if you address.
I had my period from January 29th through February 6th then was sexually active from February 9th through the 11th and again from February 22nd through February 25th. I still haven't started my period but took two pregnancy tests and they were both negative. On March 15th I experienced pink discharge/spotting. Could this be a sign that I'm pregnant?
Unless you have a really long cycle, you're going on about three weeks late for your period. If the spotting hasn't turned into a flow, take another pregnancy test and if that one comes back negative call your OB and let them know. They can give you a blood pregnancy test to confirm whether or not you're pregnant and help you to troubleshoot why your period is so late.
If the spotting has turned into a period then there's lots of benign reasons a period can come late including stress, a cold or flu bug or even a change in your sleep schedule.
I had my period on January 12th then I had unprotected sex on January 24th. I was supposed to get my next period on February 8th, but it came early, on the 5th. On March 12th I had sex again. Now, my March period is late. What could be the cause of my late period this month?
There are a variety of reasons that your period could be late this month, from delayed ovulation caused by a mild virus to pregnancy and the only way to find out is to start by eliminating what is NOT causing your late period.
First, you should take a home pregnancy test. If that comes back negative think back - have you been stressed, ill or experiencing a significant change in weight? All of these things can contribute to a late period.
As for the period that arrived a few days early in February, unless your periods continue to be irregular for the next several months, that's probably not a big deal and happens to most of us once in a while.
If your period still hasn't started in the next week, go ahead and give your doctor a call and let them know what's going on.
© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg