There is a myth around the delay of your menstrual cycle. If it is delayed, it means pregnancy. This is as far from the truth as possible. Not every delay in your periods indicates the possibility of pregnancy. For example, irregular or delayed periods is quite normal when one starts with the cycle for the first time, that is the preteen or teenage years. Irregular periods are also quite normal when one approaches the menopausal stage. While irregular periods in young adults is a cause of concern, this irregularity could be triggered by any number of reasons including but not limited to stress, diet, lifestyle and so on.
- What is Menstruation:
- Other Reasons for Delay:
- Tests Your Gynaecologist Will Probably Ask You to Plan For:
- Home Remedies:
- Frequently Asked Questions:
- News Related to Period:
What is Menstruation:
According to a report of a study conducted in 5 Indian states and published by NCBI, only 18% of adolescent women understood that menstruation was a normal bodily function. Several young women gained knowledge from other women in their vicinity and believed that menstruation was a curse, a mark of a woman’s impurity which women had to bear. Popular cult movies like Pad man have raised similar issues, basing their work on research reports which state that knowledge about menstruation and menstrual hygiene is dismal in India. So, let’s start from the beginning and answer the question, what is menstruation?
[bs-quote quote=”Menstruation is the monthly natural process through which a woman’s body ejects out unwanted tissue and blood via a woman’s vagina.” style=”style-17″ align=”right”][/bs-quote]
To elaborate, our bodies have a uterus and two ovaries, and they are responsible for the continuation of humanity. Uterus is responsible for secreting hormones like oestrogen and progesterone which prepare a woman’s body for the process of childbirth. Ovaries are our natural reservoirs of eggs, which when fertilized by a sperm form a baby.
When women reach adolescence, her body gets the indication that she is ready to be a child bearer and hence each month the ovaries work to ensure that an egg has reached the stage where they are mature enough to be fertilized by a sperm. The uterus created cushions arounds its walls to ensure that the foetus is protected. When the process of fertilization of the eggs doesn’t take place, the uterus walls break, allowing the fertilized egg to be ejected out of the woman’s body along with some blood. Ideally, a periodic cycle lasts for 5-7 days, and is repeated every 28- 35 days.
Other Reasons for Delay:
Given a layman’s understanding of the human anatomy, lack of periods leads to the obvious conclusion which is pregnancy. However, the 21st century has brought with itself many wonders, one of them is the understanding of human anatomy and a deep understanding of bodily functions. Doctors suggest that if your period has been delayed by 5-7 days, it would be counted as delayed periods, you can however hit the panic button if you haven’t started menstruating even after 10 days of your expected date of the start of your periods. This in no way means that you are pregnant, there are several causes for delay in periods. Here are 8 reasons for delay in your period apart from pregnancy:
1. Excessive Traveling or Extreme Change in Schedule:
Extensive and excessive travel at odd hours, travelling to different time zones, staying up late at night, and insomnia are some of the reasons which disrupt the schedule your body is used to. This disruption of your schedule, also throws your internal clock off and disturbs the delicate balance between the functions of your hypothalamus, pituitary and ovaries which together regulate your menstruation. This kind of stress may lead to delayed periods, or even cause one to miss periods for a month.
Both physical and psychological stress are the worst enemy of the human body. While a little stress can be overcome easily, women tend to suffer from chronic stress caused by the double burden of work life balance and sickness including medical procedures. This chronic stress releases cortisol in their systems, sending their bodies into emergency mode, leading the body to shut down all unnecessary bodily functions like menstruation and focus only on the survival of the body.
3. Extreme Weight Fluctuation:
Sudden loss of weight or gain of weight can cause a delay in your periodic cycle or may even lead you to skip a month’s cycle entirely. Weight loss due to trauma (illness or medical procedures) or eating disorders can cause stress on the body. Being underweight also means that the body will not have enough means to produce adequate amounts of hormones for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
On the other hand, weight gain can be caused by diseases, eating disorder, even lack of sleep and activity. Excessive fat affects the production of oestrogen in the body, resulting in its over production. Excessive fat in the body could also lead to unregulated endometrial growth, which then negatively affects the menstrual cycle.
4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome/Disease (PCOS/PCOD):
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or Disease or Disorder is the most common health issues among women of childbearing age. Other symptoms for PCOS apart from irregular periods are weight gain, growth of facial and chest hair, hormonal changes, male pattern baldness to name a few. PCOS is caused when the levels of male hormones in a woman’s body rise, disturbing the delicate balance between testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen in a woman’s body. This imbalance causes the formation of cysts in a woman’s ovaries leading to irregular or no periods at all. The lack of period blood, however, does not mean that the uterus is not bleeding, the cysts are only blocking their passage, which means the blood remains clogged up in our bodies. If PCOS remains unchecked, it could cause severe infections due to the clogging up of blood in the uterus, in extreme cases these may cause insulin resistance and/or endometrial cancer.
The thyroid gland regulates the body’s metabolism, when it is thrown off balance, it also leads to the imbalance in the production of hormones in a woman’s body. Hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism cause a hormonal imbalance in the human body, leading to the delay or missing of periodic cycle.
Severe viral or bacterial illnesses, chronic diseases, or medical procedures like operations can cause the body stress, leading to the production of Cortisol in the body. If your period is delayed because you are suffering from illnesses like typhoid, malaria, dengue, other autoimmune diseases or minor operations, you may not worry. Your body is in survival mode for now, and would return to normal, once all other bodily functions resume their normal rhythm.
A bad diet is the biggest contributor to several health issues in young adults today. If your diet largely consists of oily, junk food, it could lead to you suffering from deficiency of various important vitamins and minerals. This in turn would affect the function and regulation of several body parts, including some which produce. This would create a hormonal imbalance in your body leading to irregular and painful periods.
8. Too much Exercise:
Exercising regularly for 30-60 minutes is great for health but exposing your body to strenuous work out sets for a longer period may lead to low development of oestrogen in the body. It is a known fact that athletes with rigorous training schedules tend to not have periods for as long as six months at a stretch.
Tests Your Gynaecologist Will Probably Ask You to Plan For:
It is understandable that had the alternative of irregular periods not been pregnancy, several women would have gladly skipped a couple of months of menstruation if it meant not suffering with cramps. Menstrual health is still a hushed-up topic in the Indian society, men and women don’t talk to their peers or each other about menstrual issues. However, this cannot be stressed upon enough that consulting a gynaecologist is extremely important, it could lead to early detection of fatal diseases. To prepare yourself before you visit your doctor, here are a few common tests he/she would ask you to plan for:
1. Urine Test:
There are several urine tests available in the market, most of them could be taken at home too. These tests are used to determine the presence of hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, which is generally known as the “pregnancy hormone”. These Do-It-Yourself urine tests claim to be 99% accurate, and your gynaecologist will accept these results as valid.
2. Complete Blood Count:
If the urine tests reveal nothing, your gynaecologist may ask you to plan for a complete blood count test. A CBC test indicates your haemoglobin percentage among other things, it can either rule out or confirm anaemia, which can be a possible cause of irregular periods. You can book the test at Medlife Labs, blood sample collection is free of charge and report is generated within 24-48 hours.
3. Thyroid Tests:
Your gynaecologist may also suggest a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine) test along with a complete blood count test. These tests help ascertain the functionality of the thyroid gland, if any of these indicators is above the accepted normal level, it means that the thyroid gland is malfunctioning and causing irregular periods. You can book a thyroid scan test at Medlife Labs.
4. Abdominal Ultrasound:
Abdominal ultrasounds are suggested when tests urine tests, CBC and thyroid tests are negative, and the person is still suffering with irregular periods. Abdominal ultrasounds are used to gauge the presence of cysts in the ovaries. If the presence of cysts is confirmed, then it becomes a confirmed case of PCOS resulting in irregular periods.
5. Serum Prolactin/Blood hCG Tests:
If urine tests are taken too soon, they may be negative for pregnancy or there may be the rare case where the urine test gives an inaccurate result. If all other tests fail at coming up with a diagnosis, your gynaecologist may ask you to plan for a serum prolactin and blood hCG test. Prolactin is a hormone which helps with the production of milk in a woman’s breast, and hCG is the pregnancy hormone, a blood test a much more accurate way to rule out or confirm pregnancy. You can book a serum prolactin and blood hCG test at Medlife Labs.
6. Psychological/Physical Stress:
If even the serum prolactin/blood hCG test are negative, it is assumed that the body is healthy enough to function normally. Stress does not have a quantifying test, but if the body is healthy and still suffering with irregular periods, it is assumed that a person an exposing her body or mind to stress which is causing this irregularity.
Unless you are suffering from PCOS or Thyroid which require medical attention, every other problem of the body can be cured at home. You need to understand that irregular periods are a stress signal for your body, indicating that internally things are less than ideal. Here are a few home remedies:
Safi is not strictly a home remedy, it is sold by Hamdard as a herbal unani tonic which is made of over 28 herbs and helps in weight loss, regulating periods and acts like a blood cleanser. While several people claim that Safi does work, one needs to remember that even Safi is a medicine, chronic abuse of Safi can lead to electrolyte imbalance and several mineral deficiency related diseases.
Raw papaya is one of the oldest and most used remedy in the book. Papaya aids in the contraction of the muscles of your uterus which in turn helps in regulating periods. Papaya also prevents cancer, diabetes, risk of a stroke, along with contributing to bone health.
3. Aloe Vera:
The yellow gel under the thick skin of an aloe-vera leaf has several health benefits. This gel is good for the skin, it helps cool down the stomach and it play an important role in regulating periods. It is safe to consumed daily and it is tasteless. Consuming a little bit of aloe vera gel first thing in the morning, keeps the body healthy.
While it is true that too much exercise can plug your uterus and prevent your periods, if you are dealing with a delayed period and are someone who exercises moderately or doesn’t exercise at all; some work out may help. Exercises like skipping, squatting and jumping may jumpstart your uterus into responding.
5. Relaxing Activities:
If you work out too much or are prone to taking a lot of stress, you must indulge in some activities that relax your body and mind. Anything from a well-liked hobby, to getting a massage to meditation can go a long way in ending your delayed period.
Frequently Asked Questions:
There are several misconceptions regarding irregular periods, unmarried young women are afraid of acknowledging a skipped period, in case it meant facing judgmental comments and young married women assume they are pregnant. This fear and shame associated to even talking about menstrual cycles mean that women refuse to go to a gynaecologist till it is necessary. Here are a few frequently asked questions about irregular periods:
1. What is irregular period?
Any menstrual behaviour which is deviant from your regular periods is irregular periods. These include less than two weeks’ time between two menstrual cycle or delayed periods or both.
2. What is white discharge? Why is this discharge irregular?
White discharge is the dead cells the uterus pushes out through the vagina. Generally, a large amount of white discharge is released by the body during menstruation, however, the body continues discharging this white discharge throughout the month in little amounts. If you suffer from heavy white discharge outside your periodic cycle, it is indicative of weakness, stress, and anxiety.
3. Negative pregnancy test, white discharge and stomach cramps but no periods, should I worry?
If your period is delayed by 3- 4 days when these symptoms show up, then you can relax because the cramps may indicate the onset of a periodic cycle within the next couple of days. However, if you have missed your period by more than a week and you suffer from stomach cramps and white discharge, it could be a symptom of PCOS, stress, malfunction of the hypothalamus among other diseases. Consult a gynaecologist immediately.
4. Can irregular periods cause infections?
Depends on the probable disease you are suffering from. If you are suffering from PCOS, especially the type where blood gets accumulated in the uterus, then the chances of acquiring an infection are quite high.
5. Can poor menstrual hygiene lead to irregular period?
Poor menstrual hygiene could lead to development of several infections including fungal infections, urinary tract infection (UTI), and reproductive tract infection (RTI), the presence of these infections and their medication may lead to irregular periods. However, the biggest threat of poor menstrual hygiene is the risk of infertility.
6. Can irregular periods be cured completely?
Unless you suffer from PCOS or thyroid, irregular periods can be cured. You just must focus on your diet, maintain an optimum weight, get enough relaxation as well as exercise and lead an overall healthy life to regulate your menstrual cycle.
7. When is the right time to visit the gynaecologist?
If you have missed your period for more than 10 days, it would be the right time to visit the gynaecologist and seek their help.
Our lifestyle, diet even stress levels impact our bodies in a negative or positive way. While with men high levels of stress with a bad diet and lifestyle leads to weakening of their sperms, in women these same things get a little more complicated. Since a woman’s body is biologically designed and developed for producing another life, the maintenance of the delicate balance of the elements is a prerogative. Any imbalance could have a long lasting negative impact on a woman’s reproductive health. If you or your loved ones suffer from irregular periods, it is better to have them tested and cured in time than letting it fester till it reaches unmanageable proportions. Consult your doctor immediately.
Study Reveals: Pollution Delays Periods:
– 23rd Mar 2018
The Journal of Human Reproduction published the findings of a one of its kind study in January 2018. Conducted by researchers from Boston University in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency with over 34,000 participants between the ages of 24 to 42, the study states that air pollution has a negative effect on a woman’s reproductive health. The study revealed that Total Suspended Particulate Matter (TSP) which is mostly made up of fumes from coal combustion and exhaust from vehicles is responsible for delaying the on-set of menstruation in teens. Researchers argue that TSP leads to the creation of more male hormones in young girls, leading to a delay in the onset of periods followed by moderate irregularity in periods or persistent irregularity in periods from the ages of 18 years to 22 years. The study also revealed that women exposed to high levels of air pollution a month before conceiving tend to give birth to children with physical deformities like cleft lips.