Your menstrual period, also known as menstruation, is the period of time when you shed your uterine lining. As a woman, you have menstrual cycles about every 28-30 days to help prepare your body for pregnancy. If you did not become pregnant, your built up uterine lining will then shed which is your menstrual period. This usually occurs about once every month, or 11-13 times a year. However if you are going longer than usual between periods, it may be a missed period which has a number of causes.
Regular or Irregular Cycles
The hormones estrogen and progesterone are what control your menstrual cycles and menstruation. However there can be irregularities in the hormone levels that cause irregular periods or irregular menstrual cycles. Irregular menstrual cycles means that you have an unusually long or short period of time between one menstrual period and the next. An irregular menstrual period is when your period is heavier or lighter than normal, shorter or longer in length than what is normal for you. The first few years after you start your menstrual cycles, which is around age 12, you will probably have irregular cycles. This is the period of time when your hormones reach a balance.
Causes of Missed Periods
The primary cause of a missed period is pregnancy. You have become pregnant, your uterine lining will not shed so you will not experience menstruation. If there is a possibility that you are pregnant, you should take a home pregnancy test and then call your doctor. If you are not pregnant, there are many other causes of a missed period including emotional stress, excessive weight loss or weight gain, eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia, increased amount of physical activity, illness, travel, certain medications, hormone issues, illegal drug use, excessive alcohol, smoking, breastfeeding and issues with your pelvic organs such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), imperforate hymen, or Asherman’s Syndrome. You may also have a missed period due to other diseases such as liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis, or diabetes.
When to Consult a Doctor
One or two missed periods a year is normal and you may not need to visit your doctor. However if you are having frequent missed periods and are concerned with your hormone levels or are trying to get pregnant, you should make an appointment. The missed period may be due to pregnancy but you did not wait long enough to take the home pregnancy test. In this case, your doctor can run a blood test to determine the reason for your missed period.