A regular period is a sign of overall good health. If it doesn’t arrive when it should, we worry. Most women experience some variability in their menstrual cycles.
The average cycle lasts for 21–35 days, and the average period lasts for 3–5, although periods anywhere from 2 to 7 days long are also considered normal. Young girls just starting their periods often have irregular cycles, but the rhythm tends to normalise with age.
If you are of reproductive age and sexually active, a late or missed period may be a sign of pregnancy. Other symptoms include morning sickness or nausea, fatigue, mood swings and cravings.
Another common cause of period delay is stress. When you experience constant or excessive stress, your body produces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline gives you energy, while cortisol increases brain function and tells your body to slow down or stop nonessential functions in order to conserve energy.
Drastic changes in weight can have a negative effect on the reproductive system, and starting, changing, or stopping the use of hormonal contraception directly affects your cycle. Your period may be delayed or absent during travel, especially during long trips that include international flights and changing time zones—disruption of the circadian rhythm is associated with disturbances in menstrual function.
If you have concerns about your menstrual cycle, you can track your period and familiarize yourself with the changes your body goes through. Talking to your GP or gynecologist is always an option, and it’s better to address a troubling issue than to worry about it.