Epigee Birth Control Guide

Why is my period late?

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What follows is a table indicating some of the most common reasons why women have abnormalities in their periods. If a pregnancy test is negative, but menstrual problems persist, it could be a sign of a more serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. You should see your obstetrician if pregnant and gynecologist if not.

period change

if you are

what it may mean

skipped period

any woman

stress, rapid weight loss or gain, illness, drugs (certain tranquilizers) may have disrupted cycle


sexually active



using the Pill

Pill brand is too low in estrogen


former Pill user

body hasn't yet adjusted to life off the pill; see doctor if periods don't resume in 3 months


using Norplant, Mini-Pill, or Depo-Provera

common side effect of progestin-only methods of birth control — drug is probably suppressing ovulation as well as period, effect may be prolonged; most common among new users of Norplant and long-term users of Depo-Provera


any woman

missed ovulation (no egg released from ovary)


sexually active

early pregnancy — some bleeding may occur on implantation; ectopic pregnancy — especially if accompanied by sharp pain on one side


using the Pill

less endometrial build up, a common Pill side-effect


using Norplant, Mini-Pill, or Depo-Provera

common side effect — drug is probably not suppressing ovulation if periods are regular


any woman

fibroids (benign uterine growth)


sexually active

possible miscarriage, esp. if period is late and with severe cramps and clots in blood


an IUD user

device may have irritated the uterine wall — a common IUD side effect


using Norplant, Mini-Pill, or Depo-Provera

longer periods are a common side effect; heavier periods are a less common side effect, but iron supplements or discontinuation may be necessary


new mother

an enlarged uterus, resulting in the accumulation of more lining; a cervix widened by childbirth releases more menstrual fluid at once with less cramping

bleeding/spotting between periods

any woman

stress; an infection, cyst, or polyp of the cervix, vagina, or uterus


a new Pill user

breakthrough bleeding, common in first few months of use, may indicate brand of Pill is not right for user


current Pill user

missed a pill or taken one late


using Norplant, Mini-Pill or Depo-Provera

a common side effect, especially during the first few months of using the Mini-Pill


an IUD user

a local infection or inflammation caused by the device



normal hormone fluctuations in first trimester can cause spotting

Sources: Ramona Slupik, MD, associate professor of ob/gyn at Northwestern U. in Chicago, and Mary Jane Bovo, MD, private practice ob/gyn in NYC [Glamour, 10/91, p. 48]. Additional Information from Robert Hatcher et al, Contraceptive Technology, 16th ed., Irvington Publishers, NY, 1994, pp. 296-322.

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 Updated: December 4, 2002