A missed period can ring alarm bells for anyone with a uterus. If you're sexually active, the first thing that will come to your mind is pregnancy, and rightfully so. "Pregnancy is the first thing you should suspect if your period is delayed, especially if you've had unprotected sex recently," says Dr Meenakshi Ahuja, Director at Fortis La Femme, New Delhi. However, several other factors can cause a missed period that has nothing to do with pregnancy.
In a conversation with POPxo, Dr Meenakshi gave us insight into the causes behind irregular and missed periods, which include stress, hormonal imbalances and consumption of morning-after pills.
"Remember when you were in school and your cycle went wonky near your exams? That continues to happen till you menstruate," says Dr Meenakshi. Stress can lead to an imbalance in your hormones, which can then affect your cycle. In fact, stress can even affect the part of your brain responsible for regulating your period, called the hypothalamus. So if you feel that stress is responsible for your missed cycle, try incorporating relaxation techniques like meditation in your daily routine. Exercise helps too!
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. According to Dr. Meenakshi, hypothyroidism is one of the common reasons for delayed periods. If your doctor suspects this is the reason behind your missed or irregular periods, they will ask you to get some blood tests done and will prescribe appropriate medication according to your test results.
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition in which a person has higher-than-normal levels of the hormone prolactin in the blood. "Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the brain which can cause changes in your cycle. If you are on antacids or any other medication, it could interfere with normal prolactin levels," explains Dr Meenakshi. A warning sign to watch out for is discharge from your nipples, she says.
"Hormonal issues with weight gain, facial hair, acne and/ or irregular cycles are very common," says Dr Meenakshi. If you suspect you might have PCOS, keep a record of your cycle and other symptoms. Your doctor will ask you to run some tests, including blood tests and ultrasounds, after which they will design a specific treatment plan for you.
Emergency contraception is taken to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the contraception you have used has failed. However, you need to keep in mind that it will affect your menstrual cycle. "Use of emergency contraception like i-pill and the like will cause irregularities in your menstrual cycle, which can lead to missed periods."
However, while the above reasons could be behind your irregular cycle, don't be quick to rule out pregnancy. "Remember, if you have been sexually active, irrespective of the above issues, you could be pregnant. So make sure you rule that out and check with your gynaecologist immediately to address the problem."
And when it comes to a diagnosis, don't go by what you read online--always check with your gynaecologist.
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