Why Is My Period Late? – Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

There’s nothing like a late period to add a little more stress to your life. the most obvious culprit, pregnancy, is a possibility, but there are many other reasons.

ob/gyn erin higgins, md, explains why late periods happen and what to do if yours is mine.

Reading: My period is 2 days late

what is a “late” period?

Although some people may have precise predictability with periods, most have a small variation. so if your period is a day or two late, don’t panic.

“Your menstrual cycle is the time from day one of your period to day one of your next period,” says dr. higgins says. “On average, these cycles last between 24 and 38 days.”

That means a 28-day cycle one month and a 26-day cycle the next month is probably nothing to worry about. your period could be considered late if:

  • It has been more than 38 days since your last period.
  • You are usually very regular and your period is more than three days late.

things that delay your period

Missing a period is often the first sign of pregnancy, but there are other reasons for a delay as well. here are some other factors that can delay your monthly flow:

extreme diet and exercise

A healthy diet and regular exercise can do wonders for your health. but if you overdo it, you could say goodbye to your periods, at least temporarily.

“athletes who train too hard or don’t consume enough calories can stop menstruating,” says dr. higgins says. “It’s the body’s way of telling you that it doesn’t have enough resources to support a pregnancy.”

When your periods stop due to weight loss, diet, or exercise, you are experiencing secondary amenorrhea. this means that you previously had periods, but they have stopped. Secondary amenorrhea could happen to you if:

  • eat an extreme, calorie-restricted diet.
  • have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.
  • lose a lot of weight in a short time.
  • do intense training, like for a marathon.
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polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

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pcos is a hormonal imbalance that interferes with the release of an egg (ovulation). when you don’t ovulate, you usually don’t have a period. Many people with PCOS have irregular, late, or absent periods. other symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include:

  • acne.
  • excess facial or body hair.
  • hair loss.
  • weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

Doctors diagnose PCOS by checking your symptoms and performing medical tests when necessary. medication and lifestyle changes can help control symptoms.


High stress levels aren’t just a burden to your mental well-being. they can also cause physical symptoms, and your periods could be in the line of fire.

“Minor daily stress usually won’t affect your period,” says dr. higgins says. “But major stressors interfere with your body’s delicate hormonal balance, which can ultimately cause your period to be late.”

Some examples of major stress include:

  • death of a loved one.
  • high school or college exams.
  • job loss.
  • major life events. life, like a wedding.

hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal birth control contains progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen. these hormones stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy. hormonal contraceptives include:

  • oral contraceptive (“the pill”): these are pills you take every day.
  • contraceptive patch: this is a sticker that you put on your skin and replace every week.
  • vaginal ring: you place this ring-shaped device in your vagina and change it once a month.</li
  • injectable contraceptive: this is an injection your doctor gives you every three months.
  • hormonal implant: this implant is a small rod- t-shaped device that a doctor places under the skin in your upper arm.
  • hormonal intrauterine device (iu): this is a t-shaped device that your doctor places inside your uterus.

Some hormonal contraceptives cause a false period known as withdrawal bleeding. You will have this “period” when you have your hormone-free week on the pill, ring, or patch. but if you continue to take birth control without the hormone-free week, you may have some spotting or no period at all.

“it’s okay to miss a period if you’re taking hormonal birth control continuously,” says dr. higgins says. “But ask your doctor before trying it to make sure it’s safe for you.”

thyroid conditions

Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. and it’s one of many hormonal mechanisms that help dictate your periods. if it’s overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism), you may have a late period.

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“Thyroid problems are common, affecting more than 10% of women,” says Dr. higgins says. “can cause irregular or missed periods and can be mistaken for menopause.”


It is the rare young woman who starts menstruating and immediately has a 28-day cycle every month. it usually takes a few years for things to stabilize. That’s because preteens and teens have an immature hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis.

“The hpo axis is the hormonal system that regulates ovulation and menstrual cycles,” says dr. higgins says. “It takes a few years for the hpo axis to mature and regulate its periods.”

Usually, your period should level off and become more predictable in your late teens and early 20s.


Perimenopause is the transition from the reproductive years to menopause. this transition may take a year or two, or it may take several years. and during this time, your cycle can be all over the place. it can be 25 days one month and 29 the next.

“Irregular periods during perimenopause are okay,” says Dr. higgins says, “but if your periods are getting heavier or more frequent, see your doctor.”

The average age of menopause is 51, so perimenopause often begins in your 40s or 50s. Perimenopause usually comes with other symptoms as well, such as:

  • hot flashes.
  • insomnia.
  • mood swings.
  • night sweats.
  • vaginal dryness.

don’t ignore a missed period

If you track your periods, you’ll probably know right away if something’s wrong. keep a menstrual diary on your calendar or get an app designed for that purpose. Your period logs can provide valuable information for you and your doctor.

“Doctors want to know details about your previous periods so we can figure out if there are any problems,” says Dr. higgins says. “An occasional late period is often the result of something minor, but if you have frequent irregular or late periods, check with your doctor to rule out other health conditions.”

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