Missed or irregular periods send alarm bells ringing inside our heads and cause some serious anxiety. The first obvious question for anyone who is sexually active is most often "Am I pregnant?" For those who are not sexually active, the anxiety still persists as a nagging feeling and a question mark about one's health. Here's some information that might or might not help you breathe easier - whether or not you are sexually active, there are reasons other than pregnancy and overall health that could be causing irregular, delayed or missed periods. Your menstrual cycle can be affected by many small events or changes that you're experiencing, physically and mentally. While the normal length of a woman's menstrual cycle is around 28 days, it can vary for different individuals from 20-35 days. As long as your cycle is consistent and occurs in a similar pattern every month, it is normal. Having an irregular menstrual cycle means that the days between your monthly period varies drastically every month. The number of days that you bleed can also change every month if your cycle is irregular. Here are a few reasons you could be experiencing irregular periods.
1. You're stressed out
Stress can mess many things up for both men and women and is associated with many chronic diseases. For women specifically, though, stress is a factor associated with throwing the menstrual cycle off balance. Broadly speaking, periods of chronic stress can cause the hormones that regulate menstruation to be suppressed, causing women's periods to become irregular or stop altogether. Stress can suppress the hormones that regulate ovulation, or the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. If ovulation doesn't happen, a period won't happen either.
2. You've started working out extra hard
Moderate and regular exercise is very important for overall health. However, working out too hard can cause your menstruation to stop suddenly. Working out at a high intensity or putting an excessive amount of physical exertion on the body can cause your body to produce too much cortisol. Cortisol is your body's main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. Cortisol is released in response to any real or perceived stress, which can be physical. When the body produces too much cortisol, the brain starts to identify reproductive functions - such as the menstrual cycle - as being unnecessary. Cortisol signals the brain to stop releasing reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, both of which are necessary to stimulate the menstrual cycle - thus causing a delayed or missed period.
3. You've lost or gained a drastic amount of weight
When your body mass index (BMI) is too high or too low, you can start to miss your period. Balanced and a healthy level of body fat is important for creating enough oestrogen. Very thin women or those with serious conditions like anorexia and bulimia can experience absent or missed periods. So can women who are drastically overweight.
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