A women's menstrual cycle can be an outward indication of her inward health. While many of us may not look forward to our time of the month, an unexplained missed period isn't something to be celebrated, unless you're trying to beome pregnant.
The reasons your period may be late can range from a menstrual disorder to a problem with your diet and exercise program. Female athletes and fitness fans should be aware of what a missed period might mean for your health.
Many of the symptoms associated with PMS are also symptoms of early pregnancy; for example, cramping, bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue and digestive issues. If you have some classic PMS symptoms but miss your actual period, take a pregnancy test to be sure. If you'e pregnant, consult with your doctor about prenatal care issues like supplementing with vitamins.
2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a disorder in which a woman's hormones are out of balance. It's the most common cause of infertility among women. The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman. The most common and easily identifiable symptoms of PCOS are missed menstrual periods, acne, hirsutism (male pattern body hair) and abdominal obesity.
Even if you're not interested in becoming pregnant, it's important to address PCOS. In addition to having a negative impact on your fertility, PCOS can disrupt your metabolism. If left unattended to, these disruptions to your metabolic system could manifest as diabetes, high cholesterol or metabolic syndrome.
3. Thyroid Dysfunction
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing several hormones that regulate your metabolism. If your thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), it can interrupt your menstrual cycle.
Other symptoms of Hyperthyroidism include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- More frequent bowel movements, sometimes with diarrhea
- Development of a goiter (an enlargement in your neck)
Other symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:
- Reduced heart rate
- Sensitivity to cold
- Numbness in the hands
- Development of a goiter
Stress enters our lives in many forms. The physical stress of training for an athletic event, the emotional stress of a major life event or the mental and physical stress of changing your day-to-day routine all can send messages to your body.
If you believe that stress has caused you to miss your period, take some time to evaluate your lifestyle. You may need to make a simple change, like cutting back on your marathon training, or you may have a more complex issue to deal with, like balancing work with responsibilities at home. No matter where your stress is coming from, you need to address it. A missed period is your body's way of warning you that trouble could be ahead.
5. Major Weight Fluctuations
Being underweight or overweight can turn your menstrual cycle upside down. Many female elite female athletes experience menstrual cycle disruptions and weight fluctuations, and they take the appropriate steps to manage them.
Unfortunately, some women experience similar symptoms because they have eating disorders. If you think you might have anorexia, bulimia or a binge eating disorder, contact a qualified specialist to evaluate your situation. The long-term health consequences of eating disorders should not be taken lightly.
6. Premature Ovarian Failure
When you lose normal function of your ovaries before age 40, it's considered to be a premature ovarian failure. If your ovaries stop producing the hormones needed to release an egg every month, and you could become infertile.
The signs of premature ovarian failure are similar to the signs and symptoms of menopause:
- Irregular or skipped periods
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Irritability or difficulty concentrating
- Decreased libido
Although the symptoms are nearly identical, premature ovarian failure is not premature menopause. Women with premature ovarian failure may have irregular or occasional periods for years and may even become pregnant. However, women with premature menopause stop having periods and can't become pregnant.
Premature ovarian failure can be treated with estrogen therapy and vitamin supplements to prevent bone loss. If you suspect that you're experiencing premature ovarian failure, make an appointment with your primary care physician or OBGYN to get properly diagnosed and treated.
A skipped or late period is not cause for alarm in many cases. However, if you miss several periods or are experiencing additional symptoms, you should take these signs seriously and consult your physician.
Every woman should safeguard her health by paying close attention to her overall well-being and her menstrual cycle.