By Toni BrannaganMedically reviewed by Dr. Brandi Jones, DO
As much as skipping a month of PMS symptoms seems like a win, in reality, nothing is more nerve-wracking than waiting for a late period when you’re *not* trying to reproduce. (Also, inexplicably, when you aren’t sexually active? Why is this a thing?)
Even when a pregnancy test confirms you’re in the clear, that fear is still usually replaced with confusion. Where the f— is your period? Of course, there is a small chance that you’re still pregnant even if the test reads negative (make sure you’re testing in the morning, when the hormone that proves you’re pregnant is at its most concentrated) but we also know that there are a whooole lotta factors that contribute to an irregular menstrual cycle.
If your period doesn’t return after your next cycle, it’s definitely worth a call to your gyno, who can help you figure out what’s going on, and how to bring Auntie Flo back to town. Here are a few potential causes:
The part of your brain that’s responsible for controlling your cycle can be directly affected by intense stress. Having a tough week at work, a rocky month in your relationship, or even angsting over whether you should commit to the Game of Thrones spin-off (Is it gonna be worth it? I just don’t know?) can all basically force your body to make the executive decision that you’re not in the right mindset for procreating.
Depending on what birth control you’re taking, your period may be disrupted or disappear entirely for the duration of time you continue that medication. For example, certain hormonal IUDs thin your uterine lining, causing much lighter or non-existent periods.
If you were prescribed a birth control pill and stopped taking it, that would also explain why your period is a no-show. Basically, your body has to relearn how to kick off your menstrual cycle on its own, and it can take a few months for it to figure things out.
If you have concerns about your birth control and its effects on your cycle, you should check in with your gynecologist about switching to a new method if necessary.
Both significant weight gain and loss notifies your hypothalamus (that same part of the brain that’s triggered by stress) to prevent your body from getting pregnant, which will disrupt your menstrual cycle. It might take a second for your body to realize you’re fine, but maintaining a very low or high weight might extend your period’s absence. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your gynecologist will be able to recommend the best course of action.
(Don’t forget: any noteworthy changes to your diet or exercise regimen should also be run past your primary care doctor.)
Certain conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or an overactive (or underactive) thyroid can cause hormonal imbalances that put your period on pause. Diagnosis and treatment for both of these, or anything else that could be going on down there, can be obtained with the help of—all together now—your gyno.
If you’re in your 40s (and sometimes earlier), a missing period might indicate that you’re beginning perimenopause, a collection of symptoms that pre-date menopause before the real thing.
Menopause is officially defined as 12 consecutive months without a period. Take some time to make a plan for how *you* will navigate this new phase — it’s much less stressful than figuring it out as you go along!
Has your period ever taken an inexplicable leave of absence? Did you figure out why? Share your stories with us in the comments.