When periods begin in puberty, it isn’t unusual for it to take a few months, or even years, for your menstrual cycle to become regular. A typical menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but, depending on the person, a healthy cycle may last between 21–45 days. Which means that it’s really personal as to how late a period can be.
As you become more familiar with your body, or track your cycle on an app, you can be aware of roughly how long your cycle is. And when you’re due to start your next period. This can be useful for family planning when you’re trying to conceive (TTC).
With this in mind, you can be aware when your period isn’t on time. But not all periods are like clockwork. And it is normal for there to be slight changes in your cycle over the years.
So, when is a period “late”?
If cycles vary, how do you know you’re late, and how late can a period be? If it has been at least 30 days since the start of your last period, then that would usually be considered late. And if it has been six weeks without bleeding, it becomes a missed period.
There are so many things that can cause this to happen, but if your period or cycle seems to be unpredictable, then arrange an appointment to discuss with your healthcare provider so you can try to understand the cause(s) a bit better.
What to do if your period is late
It might be worth doing a home pregnancy test (HPT) if you are a few days late. This test is simple, and checks for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is only present when you’re pregnant. These tests are increasingly accurate, and it’s even possible to get a positive result from the day your period is due.
At the same time, it’s also possible to get a false negative in the first few days after a late period. So, testing a week after your period was due is more likely to show accurate results.
It’s understandable that you might worry about how late can a period be without being pregnant. So, if you know you are not pregnant, and your period is later than usual, then it might be worth having a chat with your doctor. It can be helpful to understand what else might be going on with your body.
Why is my period late?
Can you miss a period and not be pregnant? Yes, you can. Pregnancy isn’t the only thing that can cause a late period, or a missed period, so what are other reasons for a late period?
It could also be something to do with:
- Birth control
- Stress levels
- Weight changes
- Changes in exercise regime
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a set of symptoms caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones
- Thyroid concerns
- Chronic health problems, especially celiac disease and diabetes
- If you’re younger than 40, it is possible that you’re experiencing early menopause, also known as “premature ovarian failure”.
- If you are in your mid-late 40s then it’s possible you are perimenopausal
The reasons for your missed period are often pretty straightforward, but changes in periods can also indicate an underlying medical condition, so it’s smart to track your cycle and talk to your doctor to find out the cause and if any additional tests or treatment are needed.
How long after you miss your period should you worry?
If your cycles are usually like clockwork but things have suddenly changed, for example you’re experiencing bleeding at unexpected times or you have more than 45 days between periods, then it’s worth arranging to see your doctor to understand what could be going on.
It can be emotional and worrying if your period is late, but it’s best to not jump to worst-case scenarios too quickly, because it’s really normal for menstrual cycles to vary.