Not getting your period might be a blessing or a curse.If your flow is conspicuously missing, something might be out of whack with your body. Find out what’s going on, from stress to exercise to medical problems.
(One or two skipped may not be necessarily be a big deal, but if yours has been gone for three or four months, call your gyno.)
1. You’re pregnant. Obviously this is where your mind went first. And with good reason. “This is the number-one thing I look for when you miss your period — even if you don’t think you could be,” says Alyssa Dweck, an ob-gyn with the Mount Kisco Medical Group and author of V is for Vagina. Plus, because early pregnancy symptoms can be so similar to PMS-y ones (oh, hey, sore boobs), it can be tough to tell the difference. Since it’s probably the first thing your ob-gyn office will inquire about, if you’ve been sexually active, go ahead and take an at-home pregnancy test to be sure.
2. You have been on the pill for a while. If your period becomes barely-there-light or disappears altogether. With some low-dose estrogen pills and the IUD Mirena, the endometrial lining doesn’t build up, so there’s not much lining to shed, explains Melissa Goist, an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Sometimes women on these pills don’t menstruate monthly or at all,” she says. So relax, it’s completely safe. (Although if you suspect that you could be pregnant, even if you’re on the pill — it’s rare but it happens — at the risk of being redundant, take a test.)
3. Something is off with your thyroid. This gland in your neck regulates your metabolism, produces hormones, controls your body temp, and more. You want it to be on point. When it’s over- or underactive, it may stop ovulation, prompting an irregular period, and possibly impair fertility, according to a new study in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. If your doctor suspects this could be the cause (and you have other symptoms, like fatigue, thinning hair, weight gain or loss) she’ll run a simple blood test and probably prescribe a medication. “With the right treatment, your period should go back to normal within a few months,” says Dr. Goist.
4. You are too into your exercise routine. Hitting the gym even though you’re exhausted from your workout the day before? Or you jokingly say you live at the gym, but it’s actually kinda true? Over-exercising (and eating too little), as well as rapid weight loss or suffering from an eating disorder can all cause your period to disappear, particularly if your BMI drops below 19 or 18, says Dr. Dweck. Thankfully, “simply cutting down on exercise or gaining a couple pounds will get your BMI up a bit, and you’ll get your period,” she says. What you don’t want to do is go without a period for more than a year (if you’re not on birth control), which can put you at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.
5. You just stopped taking your birth control pill. A hormonal pill can awesomely regulate your cycle, so when you stop taking it, it can be a shock to your body. “We’re not sure exactly why it happens, but it may take time for your system to wake up,” says Dr. Dweck. So, it might be a couple months until you get your period again. One big thing to remember: You can still get pregnant even without a period — you can still ovulate — so use condoms anyway if you’re not ready to get pregnant.
6. Stress is getting to you. Work has been totally nuts or your class load has you pulling all-nighters. “I describe it to women as whatever stress you’re under, your body decided it was not a good time to get pregnant. It’s your body’s way of protecting you,” says Dr. Goist. But as long as you can get your stress under control and it’s an isolated thing, it’s no big deal if you miss a period or it’s super late one time.
7. You have PCOS. You’re not getting your period. You’ve got acne. You’re gaining weight despite a healthy lifestyle. And your face and chest are sprouting weird hairs. Your gyno may consider PCOS, aka polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that keeps the egg from maturing, halting ovulation, and preventing your period. If an exam or blood tests show you’ve got PCOS, you can treat it with healthy lifestyle habits, like losing weight if necessary, eating well, and going on birth control pills or other meds. Though there’s no cure for PCOS, notes Dr. Goist, you can control the symptoms to live happier.
8. You have a pituitary problem. Are your nipples leaking a milky white fluid? Yikes. “It’s rare but I have women come in and tell me they lost their period and have nipple discharge and a headache from time to time,” explains Dr. Dweck. She’ll give her patients a blood test to check prolactin levels, a hormone that — yep — prompts your body to produce breast milk. If levels are high, you may have a benign pituitary tumor called a prolactinoma. Before you freak out, know this: You’d be referred to an endocrinologist, but it’s totally treatable, most often with medication.
9. You have gained a lot of weight. Just like being underweight can cause a problem, so can being overweight. Obese women were twice as likely to have an irregular cycle compared to those who were normal weight, according to an Australian study. Carrying around excess weight may cause hormone issues that throw off your cycle; plus, it’s also linked to PCOS. The good news is that losing weight through a smart diet can help bring your period back, a new study shows.
10. You got new roommates. It may be a funny urban myth, but some experts say that moving in with a new group of girls can cause your period to become irregular in an attempt to sync up with the group. “I’ve heard of young college girls saying this happens to them,” says Dr. Goist. Though studies are definitely mixed — some say it happens, others call B.S. So we don’t totally know for sure. But think about it a little harder and you may find your lack of period is actually stress-related — especially if you’re having roomie issues.