What Are the Causes of a Missed Period?

There are medical and emotional reasons for missed periods.
A missed period can be a sign of pregnancy.
Breastfeeding can cause missed periods for several months.
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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2014
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The most common cause of a missed period is pregnancy, but a plethora of potential causes exist. Birth control methods, breastfeeding, and emotional stress are also some potential causes for missed periods. Pregnancy is most common when the woman is sexually active and should probably be the first thing to rule out, but an early pregnancy may not register on basic pregnancy tests. Seeing a health professional is generally recommended when a woman experiences an unexplained lapse in her menstrual cycle.

When a period is missed and the woman has been sexually active, pregnancy is typically the first and often correct assumption. Modern pregnancy tests are normally extremely accurate when the instructions are properly followed and can detect pregnancy as early as five days before the missed period. Early detection may not be as accurate as pregnancy tests performed after the missed period, however.

Birth control methods can result in a missed period for a couple of reasons. Switching birth control methods can sometimes cause a missed period as the body adapts to the new form of regulated cycle. Other forms of birth control or methods for utilizing a certain type of birth control may purposefully suppress periods or cause them to happen much more irregularly than without regulation.


Breastfeeding can prevent the return of periods up until the woman stops breastfeeding. Some women report that they did not experience a regular period until after weening their child, but many women begin menstruating within weeks or months after their child’s birth. This is normal, but also means the woman can become pregnant again. If the lack of fertility due to breastfeeding was used as a method of birth control, the woman will need to turn to other methods to prevent pregnancy.

Many causes of emotional, mental, and physical stress can lead to a missed period. When the body is under a lot of stress, it is believed that this can disrupt normal functioning in a way that can cause periods not to happen. The amount of stress that it takes to cause this loss in usual functioning can vary significantly from person to person, and sustained levels of stress can lead to a lack of periods for an extended period of time. Some common examples of the types of stress that may lead to a missed period include a demanding period of time regarding work, severe emotional strain caused by a relationship issue, or the death of someone close.


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