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No period but a negative pregnancy test?

Even regular women can have missed or late periods. What are the causes and when should you seek treatment?

Posted: 25 January 2010
by Laura Lee Davies

One of the most frustrating problems when you’re trying for a baby, can be having a very late period. With the lack of menstruation, you patiently wait until a week after your period is due, only to get a negative test. Then you spend lots of money buying more tests just in case the first one was wrong, only eventually to face disappointment when it finally starts, sometimes weeks late.

Because the onset of ovulation and the second half of your cycle can put you through some of the symptoms of early pregnancy, it makes it hard to sense what your body is telling you. However, even women who have always had regular periods can be late. But why? Check out our five main reasons:

1. Sometimes it just happens
Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, the first ‘half’ of your cycle can be much longer than the second. If you read the ThinkBaby lowdown on Understanding your menstrual cycle you will see that there is such a complicated series of events needed to get your egg ripe and in the right place at the right time, it’s not surprising that occasionally the body takes a while to complete this process. This can lead to an elongated gap between your periods.

2. It could be anovulation
Occasionally, you might have a month when you do not raise the sufficient oestrogen level to trigger ovulation. This is called anovulation. For more about this you can read all about anovulation here.

If you do not ovulate, you might still have a period but your temperature is unlikely to change as it does on a regular cycle, so tracking your temperature is a useful way to find out what your body is doing every month.

Sometimes your ‘period’ will be light or there will be a longer gap before the next cycle occurs.

It is not always obvious why this happens but reasons for lowered oestrogen levels include travelling, excessive exercise, stress, illness or losing weight.

3. Your ovaries aren't working properly
Sometimes the ovaries simply fail to work. There are drugs which can help this and they are often prescribed as the first step towards ‘assisted conception’. For more on assisted conception (from a course of drugs to interventions like IVF), click here.

4. You're suffering from PCOS
Up to ten per cent of women suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS, but many do not realise they have this condition, which is caused by hormone imbalances (and possibly linked to insulin levels).

Symptoms can include increased body hair or some baldness, weight gain especially around your middle, acne, pain in the area of your ovaries, and heavy or irregular periods. The condition can go undiagnosed, but it is worth talking to your GP if you think you might have this as it is a common reason for lack of ovulation and there are many courses of treatment.

5. Could it be menopause?
It is possible that a woman is going through the earliest stages of the menopause (or perimenopause) which can begin many years before menopause. This is an unlikely reason for missed or erratic periods in most women who feel they are of child-bearing age. The average age for women to end their periods is around 50 though in extreme cases it can begin in a woman’s thirties or as late as her sixties.

But please don't worry yet
Unless you have a medical history that causes concern, please don't fear the worst straight away. A missed or delayed period is no indicator of a decreased ability to conceive. But it is frustrating and can be heart breaking. Visit the forums for support from the many women who go through the same things as you and the vast majority of whom will eventually be happily pregnant.

Read more on:
Buyers guide to pregnancy tests
Do you need fertility help?
Been trying for six months and still nothing?

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Discuss this story

im 2 weeks and 1 day late on my period. ive had some light spotting last week which only lasted a day. ive done 6 pregnancy tests and all are negative. im havin cramp in my legs and headaches and stomach cramps. could you please help me?
thanks sarah

Posted: 13/08/2010 at 11:21

hi i was just wondering whether you found out if you were pregnant or not? im in the same position 1 month no period; done 4 tests and all negative, ive got some pregnancy symptoms but im not sure if im just imagining them, i was thinking about booking an app with my doc but will feel like im wasting her time if theres nothing wrong. any replies will be greatly appreciated. xx

Posted: 25/09/2010 at 19:50

Hi I'm in the same position. Have been trying for a year now am this month I'm 5 days late . I have several early signs but have had 3 negative tests. Don't want to keep going to the docs as it could just be me imagineing things as I would so love to be pregnant. Fingers cross for everyone x

Posted: 11/10/2010 at 23:11

Hi there, did any of you ladies find that you were in fact pregnant? I have very irregular periods but am probably about 2 weeks late on an average cycle. I had spotting 3 weeks ago, I get cramps and fatigue etc (again could all be in my head!) have had 3 neg tests, and getting very frustrated waiting... good luck all of you...its a strange time x

Posted: 15/11/2010 at 14:05

I'm in same situation, had cramping and back pain two weeks ago, my back still aches but no more cramping, missed my period, and the last two days had light pinkish/brown discharge i only noticed it when i went to the toilet, and i saw the tissue! otherwise i probably woudn't of noticed.
I don't know weather its all in my head to, i have taken two pregnacy test both negative, but i'm abit confussed to why i still feel like i am.
Got to get checked out monday! fingers crossed! =]
Good luck to you all. x

Posted: 27/11/2010 at 03:30

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