Most women have between 11 and 13 menstrual periods each year. You may be different: You may have more or fewer. Missed or irregular periods must be looked at in terms of what is normal for you.
Menstrual periods are often irregular during the first few years after menstruation starts. It may take several years for the hormones that control menstruation to reach a balance.
Pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period. If you might be pregnant, treat yourself as if you are pregnant until you know for sure. Use a home pregnancy test as the first step to finding out whether you are pregnant.
If you are not pregnant, other causes of missed or irregular periods include:
- Breast-feeding. Many women do not resume regular periods until they have completed breast-feeding.
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. For more information, see the topic Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.
- Emotional stress.
- Excessive weight loss or gain. Although low body weight is a common cause of missed or irregular periods, obesity also can cause menstrual problems.
- Hormone problems. This may cause a change in the levels of the hormones that the body needs to support menstruation.
- Illegal drug use.
- Increased exercise. Missed periods are common in endurance athletes.
- Medicines such as birth control methods, which may cause lighter, less frequent, more frequent, or skipped periods or no periods at all.
- Problems with the pelvic organs camera.gif, such as imperforate hymen, polycystic ovary syndrome, or Asherman's syndrome.
- Remember, you can still become pregnant even though you are not menstruating. Practice birth control if you do not wish to become pregnant.
Other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis, liver disease, and diabetes can cause missed or irregular periods, although this is rare. But if any of these diseases are present, you will usually have other symptoms besides menstrual irregularities.
If you've skipped a period, try to relax. Restoring your life to emotional and physical balance can help. Many women miss periods now and then. Unless you are pregnant, chances are your cycle will return to normal next month.
There is no home treatment for missed or irregular periods. But the following information may help you find the cause of your missed or irregular periods:
- Eat a balanced diet. Being underweight or overweight can cause missed and irregular periods.
- If you are an endurance athlete, you may have to cut back on your training. Be sure to talk with your doctor about hormone and calcium supplements to protect against bone loss if you are missing periods.
Do a home pregnancy test if you had sex since your last period. If the result is positive, practice the following good health habits until you see your doctor:
- Avoid caffeine, or limit your intake to about 1 cup of coffee or tea each day.
- Avoid people who are ill.
- Do not clean a cat litter box, to avoid the risk of toxoplasmosis.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products.
- Do not use alcohol or drugs.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Take a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid or a prenatal vitamin.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
1. You have early symptoms of pregnancy, such as:
- Breast tenderness or enlargement.
- Missed periods.
- Nausea and vomiting.
2. You have missed more than two menstrual periods in a row.
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent missed or irregular periods.
- Avoid fad diets that greatly restrict calories and food variety, and avoid rapid weight loss. To maintain a healthy weight, focus on eating a variety of low-fat foods.
- Increase exercise gradually.
- Learn and practice relaxation exercises to reduce and cope with stress.
- Use contraception consistently, as directed by your doctor.
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, Health Tips for Women - Missed or Irregular Periods.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- Are you sexually active?
- Do you have any health risks?
- If you are a teen, do you have regular cycles, such as a period every 21 to 45 days?
- If you are an adult, do you have regular cycles, such as a period every 21 to 35 days?
- Have you been under increased physical or emotional stress?
- Have you done a home pregnancy test? When did you do the test? What was the result?
- Have you missed any birth control pills or failed to have your hormonal injection according to schedule?
- Have you recently changed your diet or exercise habits?
- Have you recently gained or lost weight?
- How old were you when your periods began?
- What prescription and nonprescription medicines are you taking? Are you using illegal drugs?
- What type of birth control are you using? How long have you been using it?
- What was the date of your last menstrual period?
- When was your previous period? Was it normal?
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