The older you get, the more you should be able to jive with the mysteries of your period, right? Wrong. Sometimes it feels like the older you get, the more complicated your time of the month gets, the more painful, the more messy, and the just plain old more confusing. As you wait patiently for the PMS to end and the bleeding to start, you might start to get extra stressed out if your period decides to go MIA occasionally or for months at a time.
"Menstruation is triggered by ovulation, so a missed period or a long cycle is related to ovarian function," said Ann Mullen, director of health education at Cycle Technologies. Mullen said a healthy menstrual-cycle length generally falls in the range of 21 to 35 days with no more than a week variation in cycle lengths.
So what does it mean if you fall out of that range and skip a period here or there? Here are four reasons that could be happening to you.
1. A Hormonal Problem
It's easy to want to blame your missed period on a variety of factors that include external things like diet or even exercise, but one of the reasons your period might be MIA could have to do with your own hormones. Alisa Vitti, bestselling author of WomanCode and founder of FLOliving.com, says that if you have a diagnosed condition like PCOS, adrenal hyperplasia, or hypothalamic amenorrhea, these conditions are the result of dysfunction in the various glands and organs in the endocrine system that result in missing or sporadic periods.
"A common treatment is to prescribe birth control. That does not treat the root cause of the dysfunction and prevents women from taking the gold standard of treatment for hormonal imbalances, which is food and supplement therapy," Vitti said.
It's no secret that too much stress can wreak havoc on your body in so many different ways. But one way that it can affect you is by messing with your period schedule. Vitti said cortisol, which is a hormone secreted by the adrenals, also known as the "stress hormone," is produced in excess during times of stress.
"When this happens over time from big life situations or simply overexercising during the wrong phase of your cycle can increase cortisol and decrease progesterone levels — the hormone critical in making sure your period starts on time," Vitti said.
You are what you eat, and when it comes to your period cycle, what you eat can determine how bad your PMS will be or even if you will get your period on time. "Blood sugar fluctuations can occur from being busy, skipping meals, living on lattes and, over time, can trigger a chemical conversation (via your hormones) that tells your ovary not to ovulate due to chronically high levels of insulin and low levels of cortisol," Vitti said. "When this happens, you may end up skipping a cycle."
4. Micronutrient Deficiencies
While it's important to take a look at what you are eating to see how it can affect your cycle, you also want to take a look at what you're not eating too. "Drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, overexercising, taking medications all flush hormone-critical micronutrients like B6 and magnesium from the body, making it difficult to have a regular period," Vitti said. "Dieting limits the amounts of nutrient building blocks available to the endocrine system to make enough hormones and can result in your cycle stopping for several months."