The Five Questions You Should Ask Yourself If You Miss A Period
Have you ever missed a period and asked yourself, “Am I pregnant?” While this is definitely a valid question to ask, there could be other reasons why you missed a period. And if you are not sexually active, then there are definitely other reasons why you aren’t flowing.
After years of learning more about my menstrual cycle and how to manage it, I developed a list of questions I ask myself every time I notice a change with my period. I refer to these questions as the 5 S’s:
- Stress: How has my stress levels been since my last period?
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all experienced some level of stress since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you know that stress can affect your menstrual cycle? In fact, your body secretes the hormone, cortisol, when you experience stress. Cortisol can upset the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that regulates your period, resulting in a light period, delayed period, or missed period. If you are experiencing high levels of stress on a daily basis and it’s affecting your menstrual cycle, I encourage you to see a doctor who can provide you with solutions so you don’t experience a hormonal imbalance due to missed or irregular periods. I also suggest you set aside time every day to do something that makes you feel good and lowers your stress level, such as watching a funny TV show, meditating, drawing/coloring, journaling, exercising, or going for nature walks.
2. Sleep: Am I getting enough sleep every night?
Did you know that you have a body clock? Our circadian rhythm, also known as body clock, regulates when we go to sleep and wake up each day. Most of our body clocks align with the sun; as the sun rises, we wake up and start our day, and as the sun sets, we unwind and go to sleep. Our circadian rhythm can change throughout the lifespan, starting from infancy. Those who experience sleep disorders or work night shifts may also have different circadian rhythms. When our sleep schedules are off, this can affect our brain and it’s secretion of critical hormones responsible for the regulation of your menstrual cycle, possibly causing a late or missed period. If you are having difficulty sleeping, I highly encourage listening to jazz or nature sounds on low volume or meditating before you go to sleep.
3. Sustenance: What foods have I been eating?
Food is medicine; being intentional about the foods we eat and consuming foods rich in nutrients may help prevent or lower the risk of experiencing certain health and wellness issues. Did you know the foods we eat can affect our menstrual cycle? Eating foods high in sugar, hydrogenated fats, and artificial ingredients can negatively affect the adrenal glands and thyroid, leading to an increase in cortisol. Cortisol helps to burn fat and control blood sugar levels; however, an excess of cortisol can hinder the function of reproductive hormones which may result in a missed or irregular period. If you are someone who has a sweet tooth (like myself), just know there are ways to combat the sugar craving, such as eating fruit or making your own baked goods and swapping the refined sugar for an alternative sweetener and using smaller portions.
4. Sickness: Did I have a cold, the flu, coronavirus, etc.?
Illnesses, such as the flu, may affect the endocrine system by delaying ovulation and your period. As I was reading an article, I came across this statement: the body no longer believes you’re healthy enough to carry a pregnancy, so it delays your cycle until you are. This was interesting because I never knew that certain illnesses can affect the timing, length, or blood flow of your period. In fact, data from a recent study on patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 showed that some people experienced prolonged menstrual cycles or a change in menstrual volume (amount of blood). Although we have vaccines, it’s still important to protect yourself by frequently washing your hands with soap, building your immune system with nutrient-dense foods and herbs, wearing a mask in public, and seeing a doctor when you are not feeling well. If you do get sick, journal your menstrual experience and observe if there are any changes to your menstrual cycle.
5. Sex: Have I had sex?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention sex! The reason why you don’t get your period when you’re pregnant is because the uterine lining does not shed (normally); instead, it thickens with nutrients to support the fetus. If you asked yourself the other 4 s’s and nothing has changed, then you may indeed be pregnant if you’ve been sexually active. If you are trying to get pregnant, I encourage you to be more in tune with your menstrual cycle and monitor your hormone levels.
The menstrual cycle is truly your fifth vital sign; being more in tune with your cycle can help you identify lifestyle changes that may need to be made in order to reach optimal menstrual wellness.
We plan to post personal stories, educational content, and interviews with those on the frontlines of menstrual equity to start conversations, spread awareness, and spark change in our communities. We would love your feedback here. Please read, enjoy and share!
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT INTENDED OR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS OR TREATMENT. PLEASE CONSULT WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER FOR SPECIFIC HEALTH-RELATED CONCERNS.