If you’re a person with a uterus, then you know the hardships of getting your period. It’s messy, painful, and can leave you feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck. But, not getting your monthly visit from the red menace can be just as concerning — especially if you’re sexually active.
While a late period usually means pregnancy, a potential baby isn’t the only reason your cycle may be late. You’ve likely heard that stress, poor diet, or even sex can make your period late. But is this true? Can sex delay your period? Here is everything you need to know about your monthly menstrual cycle and why it may be irregular.
Can Sex Delay Your Period?
When you think of a late period, your mind probably immediately jumps to pregnancy. And this is indeed the most frequent cause of a late or missed period. However, a lot of sexually active people state that having sex can also delay a period. Sadly, there are no scientific studies to back this claim.
Sex, in and of itself, can’t delay a menstrual cycle. However, there is some proof that regularly having sexual intercourse can alter your reproductive hormones.
Namely, researchers discovered that regular sexual intercourse altered their hormone panels drastically. This is because sex makes the body release a flood of oxytocin. Also known as the ‘love hormone’, this compound is what makes you fall in love and bond with your partner.
Oxytocin also impacts estrogen and progesterone levels in the body, causing them to balance out. As a result, your period can become more regular, lighter, and less painful. In short, while sex can’t push your period back, it can certainly make your monthly visit from mother nature more bearable.
Other Reasons for Your Delayed Period
If pregnancy or sex aren’t causing you to miss your monthly cycle, what is? You may be surprised to learn just how many conditions can disrupt your menstruation.
1. Increased Stress
Stress is such a common part of daily life that a lot of people don’t even consider it a real medical problem. However, it most certainly is. In fact, experts say that stress is the most common contributing factor to some of the most lethal health issues worldwide. And reproductive health is no exception.
Stress is caused when your body releases cortisol, a hormone that controls your mood, alertness, and fear. While having cortisol in your system is essential for maintaining emotional and physical balance, too much of it is an issue.
Namely, excess cortisol interferes with the production of both estrogen and progesterone, which can throw off your menstrual cycle and cause you to skip a period.
2. Overexercise and Improper Nutrition
Exercise is a vital part of staying healthy. However, getting too much of a good thing is also bad — particularly if you menstruate. People who were born with XX chromosomes naturally require a higher body fat percentage to maintain optimal hormonal health.
Therefore, any sudden drop in weight can delay your period. If you continue overexercising and undereating for long periods of time, you may even lose your periods completely. This is a condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea, and it’s common among female athletes and those who suffer from eating disorders.
3. Thyroid Issues
Sometimes, when you have hormone issues, you have to go straight to the source. The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your neck. It is responsible for regulating your metabolism by controlling your hormone levels.
When you develop a thyroid condition such as hypothyroidism or Graves disease, your hormone levels go out of whack. This directly affects your reproductive system and can disrupt your cycle.
4. Your Birth Control
Birth control directly impacts your hormone levels by reducing your ovulation or, in some cases, preventing the egg from dropping completely. A lot of brands offer two types of pills — active pills, which you’re supposed to take for three weeks during your cycle, and inactive pills, which you take for seven days after the active pills.
In most cases, skipping your inactive pill dose will prevent your period. Alternatively, switching to different brands of birth control can throw your hormones out of balance and make your period late.
5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
As of 2022, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS for short, is one of the leading causes of female infertility worldwide. This little-understood condition causes pockets of fluid to build up on the ovaries. The result is irregular periods or no periods at all.
What’s more, the illness triggers other symptoms such as elevated androgens, excess hair growth, and weight gain. PCOS can even make you develop type 2 diabetes, which can be fatal if untreated.
When to See a Doctor
Overall, getting your period late on one occasion usually isn’t something to be concerned about. However, if your cycle is consistently irregular or has stopped completely, then it’s time to visit your OBGYN.
Depending on what other symptoms you’re experiencing, this may be a sign of a more serious illness, such as an STD, PCOS, or endometriosis. If left untreated, a lack of a menstrual cycle can have serious long-term health consequences, including infertility and osteoporosis.