September 06, 2020

Stress has been found to be a major cause of delayed periods according to the  National Institute of Health. However, most cases of Amenorrhea (delayed period) resolve on their own once the stress subsides. It is important to note that a delayed period can be a sign of health complications including infertility. It is therefore important to know the cause of a missing period before it gets worse. Depending on the type of stress, your periods can delay by anything from a week and into months. However, it is advisable to check in with your doctor if you miss your next period. A period is considered missed after 6 weeks since your last period.

Types of stress causing delayed periods

The truth is, we all have various thresholds for stress levels. However, your body behaves differently when you’re under chronic stress. In fact, people with chronic stress are likely to become depressed in the long run. So if you need to know how long can a period be delayed by stress or anxiety, then you need to know what kind of stress you’re experiencing. 

1. Physical stress

Physical stress involves any activity that suppresses your body from performing normal functions. This can include an injured organ, in this case, ovaries, uterus, etc. 

Diseases and infections also fall under physical stress. Your body is hindered from performing its functions by pathogens. The medication you take in the process also contributes to delaying your periods.

Poor nutrition and insufficient food alsoaffect your hypothalamus reducing the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which initiates the menstrual cycle.

Intensive workout can also lead to a delayed period especially if you’re starting out. This is because your body is deprived of calories to keep functioning normally.

However, delayed periods caused by physical stress will resolve on their own once the body recuperates. If this is the major cause of your delayed periods, you can wait for your body to recover to get back into your menstrual cycle.


2. Mental stress

This kind of stress is caused by the events surrounding us. This results in psychological experience of distress and anxiety, which then triggers physiological changes that can appear as delayed periods.

Death of a loved one, job loss, financial stress, work pressure, school exams are allcauses of mental stress that can cause a delayed period. If you’re experiencing such stress especially near your next period, then it could be one of the main reasons for a delayed period. If you miss your next period, then you have to see a doctor.

3. Emotional stress

Emotional stress is usually stress caused by negative actions by those around us that hurt our emotions. Emotional stress can vary in degree depending on the causes. Relationships between people is one of the major causes of emotional stress. Going through a breakup or having a fight with a loved one, or being frustrated by someone can all lead to delayed periods.

How stress affects your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones.Three glands are involved in the regulation of your menstrual cycle: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries. 

The hypothalamus initiates the process by sending a signal to the pituitary gland to release the follicle stimulating hormone. Once the follicle is mature, the ovaries increase estrogen levels causing thickening of the uterine wall. The follicle releases the egg into the uterus causing the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone. The follicles then change to corpus luteum which produces progesterone that keeps the uterus wall thick. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum disintegrates reducing progesterone hormone  levels causing shedding of the uterine wall.

Stress interferes with this process by causing the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. This interferes with the functions of your menstrual hormones leading to delayed or missed periods. Poor nutrition also means less nutrients for your body to support thickening of the uterine wall and formation of hormones. 

In short

Stress can delay your periods by a few days to more than two weeks. If you’re under stress and your period delays, give it up to two weeks. If it still doesn’t show up, then you have a missed period. A missed period can be caused by anything from pregnancy to health complications. To avoid having delayed periods, try to ensure a healthy lifestyle with low levels of stress especially near your next period.