Aunt Vadge: I gained weight recently – is that why my period is late?

Dear Aunt Vadge, 

I have recently gained a lot of weight. My height is 5ft [153 cm] and my weight is nearly 132 lbs [60 kgs]. I’ve not received my periods this time. It’s 20 days from my day of period. I thought my weight might be the reason so I mentioned it.

What should I do for it?

Sincerely,
Missing Period

Age: 17
Country: India

Dear Missing Period,

Your body mass index (BMI) is 25.6, which is in the ‘Overweight’ category, but only just. You have only just tipped over into the Overweight category, according to the BMI scale, which does have room for error – if you are very fit and muscular, then a BMI that says you are slightly overweight may actually be irrelevant.

If you put on a lot of weight in a short period of time, this may interfere with your hormones temporarily. It’s not that common to suddenly put on a large amount of weight – it tends to happen over a longer period of time – so if this has occurred, you need to understand why this has happened and figure out how to stop it happening in future. Fluctuating weight is normal, but putting on a lot of weight in a short period of time is not.

Reverse engineering your weight gain

What you may find is that your cycle has been interrupted, and that is why you put on a lot of weight in a short period of time. Have you considered that?

Interruptions to our hormones can result in weight gain, so if you have put on weight, but your food/energy intake has not changed significantly, then it may pay to look into this in more detail.

You may have something known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), though don’t worry – there are no actual cysts involved! PCOS is understood to be a genetic predisposition to having blood sugar dysregulation that ultimately interferes with your hormones. Have a read about PCOS and see if anything matches.

PCOS causes irregular periods and weight gain as two of its key features.

Some other questions to ask yourself regarding your weight gain might be:

  1. Did you start some new medication?
  2. Why did you gain so much weight so quickly?
  3. Have you been stressed?
  4. Have you been travelling?
  5. Have you changed your diet?

Understanding why ovulation matters for your periods

Remember that your period is like clockwork from the day that you ovulate, so actually what a late period means is ‘late’ ovulation. The thing with ovulation, however, is that it shows up when it feels like it, and in most healthy women, this day will vary somewhat each cycle – it is not set in concrete. The day you ovulate is what makes a cycle longer or shorter, regular or irregular.

Some of your cycles, from the start of one period to the start of the next period, may be 25 days, some might be 30 days, and some might be 22 days. These are all normal variations. Abnormal variations are cycles that are shorter than 21 days and longer than 35 days, and this cycle fits into the latter. If this was to become a pattern, where many of your cycles were longer than 35 days, you would be considered to have irregular periods. This needs your attention, should this occur repeatedly.

Do you use a period tracker app? You should download one to your computer or phone, or make a mark in a calendar, if you don’t already do this. Then you can learn about when you are ovulating, as opposed to when you are supposed to get your period. It is arguably the more important piece of information!

Reasons you might ovulate late

Factors that can delay ovulation include travelling and stress, so if you have had exams, or been away (even on holiday!), your body may say “Nope! Not yet!” to ovulation, and make it happen later on.

The day you ovulate is flexible, but the time between ovulation and your period will stay the same, usually about two weeks. That’s why you can predict your periods based on knowing when you ovulate.

A delay in your periods may also have something to do with your hormones, and since you are still a teenager, your body may just be working out a few teething problems. You may even skip a period! This happens from time to time, and unless it happens again, is not considered an issue.

So, don’t worry for now – if your period takes another month to come, then keep a record of all of this, including signs and symptoms (sore breasts, spotting, cramps, etc.) and see if it becomes a pattern of irregularity. A pattern of irregular periods could mean you have an underlying hormonal condition that needs to be managed. In this case, you’d need to look into reasons why you may stop getting periods or have irregular periods.

Otherwise, you can expect your period to arrive anytime, and things will go on as normal!

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge

 

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.