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The menstrual cycle averages 26 to 32 days in most women and thanks to technology there are now smart phone applications to track when you started bleeding (day 1) and when you are predicted to bleed again. This cycle is governed by a chain of events that go back and forth between your brain and your ovaries; however, outside influences can get in the way and cause you to miss a period…or stop all together. Here are the most common reasons for skipped, irregular, or absent cycles.
1) Are you pregnant? Sounds basic but a number of women chalk a missed period up to other reasons in their life never thinking it's pregnancy. First things first, take a pregnancy test.
2) Are you breast feeding? Some women report getting their first period back after birth and then missing it again for months. This can be normal due to the hormones of breast feeding.
3) Are you stressed out? Severe, life altering stress (like the death of a loved one) or ongoing stresses that build may cause the body to focus on that stress instead of a period. Stress hormones (cortisol) may also cause the hormone prolactin to elevate enough to stop a period. Prolactin is the hormone that rises for milk-production but can slightly rise even when not pregnant or breast-feeding due to cortisol.
4) Have you flown recently? Anecdotally, women report that flying long distances often changes their circadian rhythm (think jet lag) and causes them to skip that month.
5) Are you an avid exerciser or competitor? The training required for those sports or competitions often push you into very low body fat content and shift your hormones such that you stop bleeding all-together until the training lessens. Think gymnasts, dancers, marathon runners, cyclists, or extreme exercisers.
6) Are you underweight? The body requires a certain amount of body fat before menstruation occurs. This can cause a delay in menstruation onset as a teenager or in adulthood if a lot of weight is lost.
7) Do you have polycystic ovarian syndrome?