7 Reasons You Miss Your Period (Without Being Pregnant)

Skipping a menstrual cycle doesn’t always mean you’re expecting. 

1 / 8

Most women have between 11 and 13 menstrual cycles per year, but many women have fewer, and many have more. Whether or not you're trying to get pregnant, a late or missed period can bring all sorts of emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety and relief, just to name a few.

Secondary amenorrhea is the technical term for missing your period for more than three cycles, even though you’ve had normal cycles before. And while pregnancy is the most common cause, a variety of things, from stress to thyroid issues, may prevent you from needing tampons this month. Here’s what you need to know about the conditions, and how they affect your menstrual cycle.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Low body weight or excessive exercise

2 / 8 Low body weight or excessive exercise

When your body weight or body fat percentage is low or you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in (a large calorie deficit) you may experience hypothalamic amenorrhea. This halt in your period occurs because the hypothalamus—the part of the brain that acts like a master switch that controls hormone production—slows down or stops making gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which usually initiates the menstrual cycle.

To help normalize your hormones, it’s important to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits; a trainer, nutritionist or primary care physician can work through food and exercise plans that are right for your body, and your schedule.


3 / 8 Perimenopause

Perimenopause typically begins about four years before menopause—for most women, in their 40s. During this transition period, your level of the hormone estrogen fluctuates, sending your periods into chaos: you may not have a period at all for a few months, you period may be extremely heavy for a period of time or you may have spotting between your periods.

If you’ve noticed signs of perimenopause and then your periods stop completely for 12 months or more, it’s likely you’re in menopause. If your periods last longer than seven days or are less than three weeks apart, or, if you’re worried about period fluctuations, see your gynecologist.


4 / 8 Stress

While run-of-the-mill anxiety may be a pain in the butt, extreme mental stress can pose sleeping problems, headaches, weight gain and temporary hypothalamic amenorrhea. The hypothalamus malfunction causes the ovaries to stop producing eggs, and menstruation stops, just as it does with excessive exercise and having a low body weight.

If you're lethargic, irritable, depressed or having mood swings, stress-relieving techniques like meditation can be helpful, or you may need to see your healthcare provider to determine other treatment options. Once your stress levels and sleep cycles return to normal, it’s likely your menstrual cycles and periods will, too. 

Thyroid diseases

5 / 8 Thyroid diseases

Thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism cause hormone fluctuations, which can affect your menstrual cycle.

If you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland towards the base of your neck, isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, potentially slowing your metabolism. Hypothyroidism can make your periods stop completely, or you may bleed more than normal or may be more frequent when you do get a period.

If you have hyperthyroidism, you produce more thyroid hormone than you need, and your heart rate and metabolism may increase. You might also notice fewer periods, lighter periods or no periods at all. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome

6 / 8 Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common health condition in women of childbearing age, affecting 5 to 10 percent of females ages 15 to 44. PCOS is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, and makes it harder for women to get pregnant. Typically, each month, an egg made by the ovaries is released during ovulation, but for those with PCOS, the egg may not grow as it should and may not release at all.

If you have PCOS, you may notice your periods are sporadic, or they may stop altogether. It’s not uncommon for those with PCOS to have more frequent periods, either, meaning they occur every 21 days or less. Treatment for PCOS is typically a combination of medications like birth control or anti-androgens and at-home management techniques like weight loss and skin treatments to slow hair growth. 

Birth control and other medications

7 / 8 Birth control and other medications

Certain birth control pills, injectable contraceptives and intrauterine devices may cause you to miss periods. While this may be the intended effect, talk to your gynecologist if skipping periods makes you feel uncomfortable, so you can try a different kind.

If you opt out of the birth control all together, your periods should return to normal after you’ve stopped taking birth control for a few months.

In rare cases, certain other drugs, such as antipsychotics or blood pressure medications, may also cause amenorrhea by raising levels of prolactin, a hormone that stops both ovulation and your menstrual cycle.


8 / 8 Breastfeeding

If you’ve had a baby and are breastfeeding, your menstrual cycle may be a little off, since nursing can delay or temporarily stop periods and ovulation. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t get pregnant, though. Talk to your OBGYN about birth control options that are safe for breastfeeding mothers.

Your period should return about a month after you stop nursing, but it may take a few months for the cycle to be regular again.

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