• Dr. Julie Granger PT, DPT, SCS

My period is late and I’m not pregnant. What is wrong with me?


You’ve counted. Checked and double-checked the date.

Days 29, 30, 31, and 32 have agonizingly passed with no period in sight.

You’re abundantly aware of what number day it is, and questioning whether you miscalculated the start date of your last cycle.

You’re healthy. You do everything right. What on earth could be going on?

You’ve considered calling the doctor, but you just don’t want to find out the truth. Even if the truth is that you aren’t pregnant, you don’t really want to go to all the trouble to show up to a doctor’s appointment (where you’ll inevitably have to sit naked in a paper gown for a long time and be awkwardly poked and prodded) and spend your co-pay just to be told something you already think you know.

And let’s face it…you’re seriously pretty sure you’re not pregnant. "It’s probably fine," you keep saying over and over when those little voices pop into your head that say it's anything but fine.

You may have even secretly taken and hidden a pregnancy test (or 12) from your parents, spouse, or significant other. Test after test confirms “negative” and you breathe a sigh of relief. As soon as you let out that sigh, guilt starts to creep into your mind as you think of all the women and friends you hear about who have so much trouble getting pregnant. What right do you have to be happy about not being pregnant?

Or maybe you’ve already called your doctor, seen her, and you still don’t really have answers. She may have taken some blood, urine, and done an ultrasound. She says everything looks good. You're not pregnant, there aren't any signs of disease, and you're fine.

Maybe you've wanted to tell a friend, but for some reason talking about this gives you feelings of failing, being irresponsible, or not being good enough at keeping track and taking care of yourself.

This is not what you planned. It's SO unlike you.

You’re…careful—and because of that you are sure there is no way you could be pregnant. Or wait. IS there? Maybe you’re starting to question your, your doctor’s and everyone’s logic and sanity. After all, isn’t it true that sometimes it takes a few weeks for a pregnancy test to show up positive? Oh geez. Now you’ll have to live like this for a few weeks.

You’ve poured over Google, and pretty much scared the crap out of yourself to the point you’re feeling more confused than before you started reading blogs and forums. So you stay quiet. You can’t help but notice that the worry and stress are starting to accumulate. It’s not healthy, but you don’t know what else to do about it. It's probably fine, you tell yourself again.

So you wait. And wonder. And worry. And keep a smile on your face and bury yourself in work, exercise, sports, or something else to keep you busy because you don’t want anyone to know and quite frankly, you don’t want to think about it anymore.

But no matter how hard you try, you can't stop the thinking.

Maybe this is just a fluke and it’ll all be normal next month. It can’t be THAT big of a deal to skip a period, right? Maybe I’ll go on the pill—I hear that will help regulate my period. But then again, I really don’t want to go on the pill.

Sound familiar?

Believe me, I have been there. Too many times to count at this point (all that counting is exhausting, anyway).

For several years, my periods were all over the place. Sometimes they’d be heavy, extremely light, extremely painful, or ridiculously unpredictable. Or my cycles would be too short or too long. It was exhausting.

Sound familiar? I didn't have answers then, but I do now! Get my free guide to better periods, more energy, and better health!

I remember being 19 and sitting in the car with my boyfriend (now husband) and crying, barely able to breathe, because the cramping was so bad. I’d taken 4 ibuprofen tablets and curled into a ball. He, being 19 and someone who'd never had a period (and never would), had no clue what to do.

In my mid-20’s I was on the pill and would get a period even when I wasn’t supposed to. My OB-GYNs would just scratch their heads and say “well, that’s not really supposed to happen, must be something wrong with the pill” and send me on my merry way with a different brand or prescription to try. I think I went through at least 8 different kinds of pills. I eventually got really tired of that endless cycle (pun wholeheartedly intended) and just dropped the pill altogether. At least I didn’t have to feel like a medical failure anymore.

At 30, my period came at Day 12. Then on the next cycle at Day 14. Then again at Day 18. That was perhaps the most exhausting and inconvenient series of periods ever. I mean, was it really possible for a human to bleed that much and that often?

I hoped and prayed I could at least have a cycle that was longer than 20 days. And lo and behold, I got my wish. It started to come every 35, 40, or 45 days. Several negative pregnancy tests and doctor visits later, I was, again, told “Well, there’s really nothing wrong with you.”

Always what you want to hear when something is clearly wrong, right?

They may as well have said “you’re a freak, we’re confused and we don’t know what to do, so please get out of our office before we get too uncomfortable because we can’t help you.”

Flash forward about a year, and it all became crystal clear.

Thanks to a series of health challenges that started with panic attacks and ended with a cancer diagnosis, I invested in probably two of the best things I’ve ever done for my health. And they weren’t things that you usually hear about from your physician.

First, I hired a bombshell of a life coach to help me get my stress and emotions in line. I was stressed out not only about my health, but I was kind of an overachiever and the stress in work, in life, and in my relationships had started to really bubble over to the point that I was having overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks. No bueno.

As the stress increased, so did my wonky (that’s a technical term) periods.

After several months of radical success doing life coaching, I was a new person. My stress had decreased, my periods had normalized somewhat, and I felt better.

Until I didn’t.

Enter unrelenting candida esophagitis (imagine the feeling of razor blades in your chest every time you swallow) coupled with a diagnosis of a rare sarcoma (cancer).

Well invested into the coaching bandwagon at that point, I then invested in a bombshell health and nutrition coach who took a functional medicine approach to helping women with health problems that just won't go away (like I do now!).

I would soon learn that, as the arrows were clearly pointing, all that stress and my “type A, overachieving personality” wasn't doing my periods (and just about everything else in my health) any favors.

As it turns out, that whole stress-period relationship isn't exclusive to me, but is actually a real, sciency, medical thing that most people aren’t going to tell you about when you go to the doctor.To give them credit, they’re too busy, they don’t have enough time to spend with you, they just don’t know about the relationship, or they feel too stressed to discuss the “taboo” subject of de-stressing.

You can see how this might leave YOU confused and frustrated, and more stressed, right?

When stress increases, your periods may actually get messed up. They may be too short, too long, too heavy, too light, too painful, too…stressful. They may bring too much bloating, nausea, fatigue, or any other number of symptoms. So then that just adds to the cycle. You feel stressed over your period, your periods become more abnormal, so you get more stressed.

Awesome vicious cycle, right?

This applies to things that may be out-of-the-ordinary for you and/or your body too. Even if you're cool as a cucumber in your mind and heart when you have that medical procedure, surgery, or test done, those are things that can wear on your body's energy and stress systems as you heal and recover from them. Same goes for injuries, pain, and illnesses. All of those are stressors to your body, even if they aren't to your mind.

I'd certainly had my fair share of medical visits and procedures.

I also learned that all that "good stress" and over-achieving: in my job, exercise (I’m a former collegiate athlete and love a good hardcore workout!), activities, volunteering, teaching, friendships, etc…was also doing my period no favors.

Why?

Well, even if it’s “good” stress or we’re doing “healthy” things, our bodies need energy to do all that amazing stuff. We get energy from what we eat and drink. If we are too busy to eat calm, nourishing, mindful, regular meals, if we eat too clean (and I’ll be honest, I was a champion of “clean eating”), or if we don’t get as much rest as our bodies and minds need, we’re going to run low on energy. We’ll burn through what little energy we do have during that big presentation, that Pilates or OrangeTheory class, or with driving carpool and being the busy, amazing girls, women, and moms that we are.

When we run low on energy, something’s gotta give. We find ourselves tired, overwhelmed and running ragged, and sometimes feeling paralyzed by our endless to-do lists. We’ll resort to whatever means necessary to get or "borrow" more energy: caffeine, sugar, or maybe even alcohol so that we can calm down and get to sleep (and hopefully get more energy).

Internally, our bodies do the same “borrowing” whether we realize it or not. When we’re running low on energy, our very smart energy-generating systems borrow energy from other systems so that we can keep ourselves running at 100 miles an hour and burning the candle from both ends.

And guess where the body will borrow energy from first?

That’s right. The reproductive system.

Why? Well, it kind of makes sense when you think about it. From a biological standpoint, if your body is in a state of stress, it will “protect” you by keeping you from reproducing offspring. This applies to you even if you're not at an age or life stage to think about producing offspring.

Simply put, if you're running ragged due to either "good" or "not so good" stress, it would take WAY too much energy to maintain a pregnancy, breastfeed, or take care of a baby. I'll refer you to any pregnant or new mom for proof that being a mom takes a lot of energy.

As a result of too much of any type of stress, our very smart bodies will literally just shut off the normal process of reproduction. If you don’t have energy for “normal” life, your inner biology just “knows” you wouldn’t have energy to take care of a baby.

One of the normal processes of reproduction is having a normal and regular period. This is why our periods may get wonky when we are stressed or too busy being do-gooders. This is one (but certainly not the only) reason why we see problems like difficulty conceiving, PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, painful periods, or any other number of hormonal issues on the rise in women, most of whom find it awfully stressful (and expensive!) to figure out what is wrong with them.

And this is why your period may be late, even if you’re sure not pregnant.

So what do you do about it?

Well, let me just say I know firsthand you can’t just click your heels and remove all the stress from your life right now. In fact, the thought of “de-stressing” may sound appealing on paper or when you say it out loud, but deep down, the thought of doing so may actually stress you out even more.

Stressing over de-stressing is totally not the point.

So, take a breath, and first of all know that it is totally ok to feel that way.

The good news is that the key to fixing your periods and cycles is to not try and do everything all at once. No, the exact opposite is actually true.

Even though you probably want it all fixed yesterday and are perfectly capable of piling the lion’s share of the effort onto your plate right now (I really admire that about you, by the way!), this is one of those things that truly cannot be done overnight.

Believe me! I tried!

And I only got more stressed out when I tried to do everything at once, ended up doing everything “halfway” and eventually my efforts fizzled out.

So I offer a few suggestions to get you started. There are no letter grades or perfection here, so you can even pick one and give it a shot!

  1. Be gentle with yourself

You’re doing the best you can. You are a total rockstar, and it’s ok if you’re now thinking to yourself “crap, I did this to myself.” In fact, it’s GREAT that you’re realizing that—it’s something to be celebrated! Nobody held your hand back in 5th grade health class when you got the sex ed talk (assuming you even got the talk) and told you that stress can make your periods go wonky. Now you know. When we know better, we do better.

  1. Get off of Google

Seriously though—we ALL joke about this, and then we don’t listen to ourselves. Put the phone down. Well, hold on to it for just a tad bit longer so you can finish reading this blog and download my free guide to help you out even more. But please stop asking Google questions. That’s what I’m here for. Reach out and let’s start a conversation! Asking questions on the internet will probably just stress you out more because you won’t get answers that are specifically targeted toward you.

  1. NO is not a four-letter word, and it IS a complete sentence.

All you can do is all you can do. What you put onto your plate got there because you said “YES” to it. When you say “YES” when you really want to say “NO,” you’re saying “NO” to yourself and your health. When you say “NO,” you’re saying yes to yourself and your health. In the next month, pick ONE (yes, only one!) thing that feels easy to say “NO” to, and go for it! Shoot me an email and let me know how it goes!

  1. Focus on quality, not quantity of sleep

There are a million ways to improve your sleep quality, a million supplements and remedies you can take, but I’m offering one for free. It involves your phone again. Put it away. At least 15 minutes before you go to bed. The blue light fools your brain into thinking it’s morning, and when your brain thinks it’s morning, you won’t fall asleep well.

  1. Eat some energy-friendly fats

Add a little extra avocado to your tacos, eat a handful of nuts per day, and choose eggs alongside your toast. Hormones are built by fats, and your reproductive hormones need good fat intake to make sure they stick around when your body is busy borrowing them to give you energy. Disclaimer: I am not advocating that you eat fats or eat a special diet emphasizing fats. Just make sure you’re getting them, period (another shameless pun. I can't help myself!).

I have a sneaky feeling you have the capability to totally ROCK it at getting your stress and your periods under wraps.

What about you? What questions do you have? I'd love to help you out.

In addition to making small changes and shifts in my lifestyle like the ones above, I dove deep with my own personal health and life coaches, and I’m so thrilled to be on the other side of it and offering the same services to like-minded girls and women like me.

Now I offer personalized health and life coaching for active, high-achieving women (like me!) who wake up feeling frustrated or overwhelmed because they don’t feel the way they want to feel, they’ve tried everything they know to try, perhaps seen a million specialists, and nothing is working. And they feel this way amidst a plate full of activities that keep them busy from sunrise to sundown. For them, it may feel so hard (or so...stressful and maybe even wrong) to stop and take care of themselves. Because of that, they (like I did) feel worried that they’ll be stuck like this forever or that something is majorly wrong and is just being missed. But like me, they know they have the power to do something about it.

Together, my inspiring clients and I partner to hone in on simple steps and shifts they can make to gain control over their lives and health, get their questions answered, and get rid of the problems so they can continue to do all of the amazing things to which they dedicate their hearts. And believe me, they do amazing things.

Sound like your cup of tea?

I’m so thrilled to offer a FREE 60-minute one-on-one call to readers of this blog post (just email us and mention to us that you read the post). Let's dig in to your questions and figure out just how to get you started on the road to less stress, better periods, and more energy so you can keep doing all the things you love without the worry.

And if you’re the DIY type and itching to dig deeper and get started right now, make sure you check out my FREE DIY guide, Energize Your Health, that offers 3 simple steps you can take to improve your stress, energy, and periods, so that you can keep on staying active and slaying your goals.

Free? I love free! Get me the free guide now!

Thanks for reading! I can't wait to hear how this goes for you!

In love and health,

Julie

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©2020 by Dr. Julie Granger DPT, SCS, WHC