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8 Possible Reasons for a Missed Period After Stopping Birth Control

8 Possible Reasons for a Missed Period After Stopping Birth Control

After stopping birth control, it’s normal to miss your period as your cycle regulates itself again. But sometimes another issue is to blame. Here are a few reasons why you may not be getting your period as expected.

How Birth Control Affects Your Menstrual Cycle

In a healthy person, the menstrual cycle regulates pretty quickly—often within three to six cycles of stopping birth control; however, bear in mind that hormonal side effects may take longer to clear out of the system.

So even if you’ve been taking birth control pills (or using other forms of hormonal birth control, like injections or the birth control patch) for years, it’s unlikely that you’ll have trouble conceiving once you stop taking them. But it might take a few months for your menstrual cycle to return to normal. The timing depends largely on the reason you went on hormonal birth control, along with any other underlying health issues that were masked by the pills or developed while using them, says Tsao-Lin E. Moy, a fertility specialist who uses natural and integrative forms of medicine.

Causes for a Delayed or Missing Period After Stopping Birth Control

Did you miss your period after stopping birth control? Remember that it can take several months for your cycle to regulate once you stop hormonal contraception, and this is completely normal. In fact, it’s common to experience irregular periods immediately after stopping hormonal birth control.

That said, if menstruation is absent for longer than expected, there might be another issue at play. Below, you can find the most common things that might be causing an irregular cycle. Be sure, as always, to reach out to a health care provider with any questions or concerns that you may have about your periods.

Stress

Small daily stressors like missing the bus or getting the kids to school late shouldn’t wreak havoc on your monthly cycle. But if you’re experiencing significant stress from major life events, or you’re finding yourself stressed out of your mind from your daily grind, your cycles may become less regular over time. That’s because stress can affect your hormone balance, which plays a crucial role in maintaining a regular cycle where an egg is produced and the uterine lining is shed if the egg isn’t fertilized.

Low Body Weight

Dramatic weight gain or loss, regardless of your starting BMI, can always impact your cycle. But if your BMI is less than 18, you may experience what’s called secondary amenorrhea.  That’s when your period, which started normally when you were a young teenager, stops altogether. Unless you are a competitive athlete, this is typically a good indicator that it’s time to check your diet and lifestyle and ensure you’re making healthy choices.

Obesity

On the flip side, having a BMI of 35 or higher is linked to a host of medical issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and of course, menstrual irregularities. Studies have found a high correlation between obesity and missed periods. Similar to being drastically underweight, having a high level of adipose tissue in the body causes disruptions in normal hormone levels like insulin and sex hormone-binding globulin.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

One of the most common causes of irregular cycles is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is caused by increased levels of the hormone androgen. While PCOS is not a curable condition, there are treatments that can help regulate your menstrual cycle and increase your chance of successfully getting pregnant.

4 Things You Need to Know About PCOS and Fertility

Uterine Polyps and Fibroid

If you’re experiencing irregular cycles or spotting along with symptoms like discomfort during intercourse and lower back pain, it’s possible the root cause of your missed period is uterine polyps or fibroids. Both sound scary, but they’re actually pretty harmless.

Polyps are small overgrowths in the lining of your uterus called the endometrium. Typically symptomless, they can cause disruptions to your monthly cycle and spotting between periods. Fibroids are growths found in or on the uterus that can cause painful, heavy periods.

Why can polyps and fibroids cause you to miss your period? Because both occur in response to fluctuations in hormones that also regulate your cycle.

Thyroid Imbalance

Who knew your thyroid played such a huge role in your menstrual cycle? It seems strange, but it’s true. Your thyroid hormones directly impact your periods, and too much or too little (as in the cases of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively) can cause your cycle to become irregular or stop altogether

Polyps are small overgrowths in the lining of your uterus called the endometrium. Typically symptomless, they can cause disruptions to your monthly cycle and spotting between periods. Fibroids are growths found in or on the uterus that can cause painful, heavy periods.

Why can polyps and fibroids cause you to miss your period? Because both occur in response to fluctuations in hormones that also regulate your cycle.

Pregnancy

Of course, if you don’t experience periods after stopping hormonal contraception, you could be pregnant. Take a pregnancy test to rule out this possibility if you’ve had unprotected sex. You could conceive even if your menstrual hasn’t haven’t returned to normal yet.

Breastfeeding

Still waiting for your period to return after birth? Breastfeeding might be a factor. Numerous studies have shown that exclusive breastfeeding leads to a few months of amenorrhea (not having a period) immediately following birth. But there’s no definitive guidance on how long that lasts, and often, there aren’t any indications that your cycle is gearing up again. This can lead to an unplanned pregnancy if no other method of birth control is used.

To prevent this, many people turn to a “mini pill,” which is a progesterone-only birth control pill. According to Dr. Robbins, “A progesterone-only oral contraceptive pill is excellent for parents who are breastfeeding because progesterone pills do not interfere with milk supply. Estrogen has been shown to decrease the volume of milk, especially in early lactation. Many methods of contraception are safe to start any time after giving birth, and people can resume an estrogen-containing contraceptive after they stop lactating.”

Once your period does return after giving birth, it’s not unusual for it to be a bit irregular if you’re still nursing. But if your baby has been weaned for months and your period still hasn’t regulated, it’s worth a trip to your doctor to have your hormone levels checked.

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