From time to time, every woman experiences fluctuations in her menstrual cycle, or period. But skipping two or more periods in a row may indicate a more serious medical condition.

Why Should You Worry About Missed Periods?
In most women, the lining of the uterus builds up with tissue and blood every month. If you are not menstruating, that lining is not being shed. If you don’t shed the lining of the uterus, it could build up to dangerous levels causing the growth of abnormal precancerous cells or infection.

What Will Your Doctor Do?
In order to properly treat you, your doctor must discover the cause of your missed periods. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam, Pap smear and manual exam. They will also most likely order blood work to check for the pregnancy hormone hCG, hormone levels, and thyroid problems. You may also have an ultrasound.

The most common cause of missed periods is pregnancy. If you think there is a possibility you might be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test or see your doctor. They can perform a urine or blood pregnancy test. If these tests show the presence of hCG, you are pregnant.

Changes in Medications
Another cause of missed periods is changing, starting or stopping medications. This is especially common with birth control medications. Talk to your doctor if you suspect this side effect.

Being Overweight or Underweight
Too much or not enough weight on your body affects your hormones, which in turn can cause missed periods. If you are overweight, shedding some of those unwanted pounds will usually help your menstrual period become regular again.

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If you are underweight, your periods may stop completely. Your body needs an adequate amount of nutrition in order for menstruation to function properly. If not treated, malnutrition can lead to infertility. This can be a problem for women who work out to the extreme, those with eating disorders and professional athletes. Gaining some weight should correct the problem.

The period of transition between reproductive age (menstruation) and non-reproductive age (menopause) may cause your menstrual periods to change. They may become heavier, lighter, more or less frequent or shorter or longer in duration. You may find that you are missing more and more periods.

Premature Menopause
In the U.S., 51 is the average age for natural menopause. Sometimes however, due to genetics, illness, medical procedures, a hysterectomy or chemotherapy treatments women experience premature menopause. Premature menopause is menopause that occurs before age 40. If you believe you may be experiencing this condition, see your doctor. There are some excellent medications that can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with premature menopause.

Menopause is the second most common cause of missed periods. During menopause, a woman no longer ovulates or menstruates and ceases to be fertile. Every woman will eventually experience menopause.

Illnesses such as STDs, the flu or even the common cold can cause missed periods. Usually, once you recover from the illness, your periods will return to normal.

Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening condition that occurs when an embryo implants itself in one of the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. The embryo continues to grow inside the fallopian tube and can causethe tube to rupture. If the tube ruptures, hemorrhaging, pain and bleeding can occur. If there is no medical intervention, death can result. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting, lower abdominal pain, sharp abdominal cramps, dizziness, fainting, weakness or pain in the shoulder, neck or rectum. If you suspect an ectopic pregnancy, seek medical assistance immediately.

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal problem in which a woman’s body makes high levels of androgens. Androgens are male hormones. This hormonal imbalance can cause missed periods. Women with PCOS usually have cysts in their ovaries and experience menstrual irregularities. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women in the U.S.

Web MD: All About Menstruation
WebMD: Ectopic Pregnancy
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