Even a short delay in menstruation can seem like an eternity; whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not. If you are hoping to conceive, it can be quite overwhelming every time your menstruation is a little bit late. It brings hope, which can be dashed so quickly.

It’s important to remember that not every delay in menstruation is a sign of conception – even if your cycle is highly regular. The delay may come from a number of reasons, both physiological and psychological. However, if the delay goes over what some call “the magic five-day delay”, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test.

Why wait so many days? This period gives you time to calm any anxiety that may be causing a delay, and therefore begin menstruation. On the other hand, it also gives the body time to produce enough hCG in order to avoid false negatives on a home pregnancy test.

Main causes of menstrual delay

A delay in the onset of menstruation can be caused by a number of reasons:

Late ovulation: The phase of your cycle between menstruation and ovulation – the follicular phase – can vary in terms of length. This means that you can reach ovulation and your fertile phase up to a week later than you normally do. This then delays the post-ovulation phase where your body builds up for menstruation or implantation of the embryo.

This potential for an extended follicular phase is why five days is the standard waiting period before women are encouraged to take a pregnancy test.

Anovulatory cycle: Contrary to popular belief, a woman will not ovulate every month. Sometimes, the body needs a rest and the hormones do not encourage any follicles to grow to maturity during the cycle. This is referred to as an ovulation or an anovulatory cycle.

The problem with these cycles is that they can be a lot longer than a regular cycle where ovulation does occur. Some women experience menstruation delays of up to two months.

Obviously, this can be quite confusing or disheartening for women who are trying to fall pregnant. If, after 15 days, you still haven’t menstruated and are still getting negative results on a pregnancy test, it’s best to consult your gynecologist. They will be able to assist with a diagnosis, which may well be an anovulatory cycle.

Hormonal imbalances: Sometimes it’s your hormones that are causing the delay in menstruation. What may appear as an anovulatory cycle, may actually be a regular cycle but without the correct levels of hormones in your blood stream.

Again, if bleeding doesn’t occur and home pregnancy tests are showing up as negative, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. An imbalance of hormones is usually quite easily fixed with the right medication.

IMPORTANT: Do not get fooled by a five-day delay in menstruation. It’s always best to wait and visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

What about when menstruation is delayed for two months?

Whether you really want to fall pregnant or you really don’t want to, you could actually be putting pressure on your body that affects your menstrual cycle. Stress, anxiety and constantly thinking about getting pregnant can have a big effect on your body. These are referred to as psychological reasons for a delay in menstruation.

There are also several physiological causes for long delays in the onset of your menstrual period:

Causes of a prolonged delay

Hormonal medications: Some contraceptives – like the birth control pills and injections – can cause the body to have anovulatory cycles. The vast majority of them use estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation. This lack of hormonal variation stops menstruation from occurring.
Another medication that stops your cycle from being regular is the morning after pill. It can easily cause a menstruation delay of up to two months due to the hormones it releases into your body and the process of expelling everything out of the uterus. Therefore, only use this pill in the case of an emergency.

Does a two-month delay affect your chances of getting pregnant?

Unfortunately, yes it does. Whatever the cause – hormone disorders or an ovulation – it means that you aren’t ovulating as often. This means that you reduce the number of times a year that it’s actually possible to fall pregnant.
The best option is to visit your gynecologist and get a full diagnosis of your problem. Most doctors will prescribe medication to encourage menstruation so that you ovulate on a more regular basis. However, they will likely do a pregnancy test just to rule out the fact that you might already be with child.

Remember to wait

This question will always be at the forefront of any woman who is experiencing a delay in menstruation: how many days should I wait before checking if I’m pregnant?

It takes a few days for the hormone hCG to build up enough for a reading on a home pregnancy test. If you get a negative result but bleeding doesn’t start, wait another two or three days to give your body some more time. hCG can nearly double its volume in 48 hours.

Readers’ questions:

How do I calculate if my period is delayed?

In order to know if you are delayed, it’s necessary to know what your menstrual cycle is doing. You need to know when your last menstrual period was and when the next one is due. If it doesn’t start on the expected day, the following day is counted as the first day of delay.

How can I control or prevent delayed menstruation?

Treatment to regulate delayed menstruation is theoretically simple. If the cause of the delay is only hormonal, you can treat it with a contraceptive pill or injection. This will provide a regular menstrual period without ovulation.
For women who want to fall pregnant, there are hormone-based medications that encourage ovulation and regular menstrual periods.

Is late menstruation normal after I stop taking hormone-based contraceptives?

Yes. Contraceptive pills and injections work by increasing the levels of certain hormones in the body. After you stop taking them, your body will need time to adjust to the new hormonal levels.