Where’s My Period? Another Way to Look at Late Periods Besides Pregnancy

I use an app on my G1 called “My Days.”  It’s used to keep track of my period and ovulation, and can track anything else cycle-related such as having sex, taking a pill, or writing notes.  The app also projects period, ovulation, and high fertility dates based on previous months.

It’s a useful tool if you’re trying to get preggers or if you’re avoiding an “accident.”  I use My Days because keeping track of my cycle helps me stay in tune with my body’s rhythm.

Since November 2008, I’ve been tracking my period and every month I would have one.  I’d have roughly a 32 day cycle with the occasional one week delay here and there with the same pre-menstrual symptoms each time: tender breasts, fatigue, crankiness and heavy emotions.

According to my calendar, I was supposed to get my period seven days ago.  So where is it?  I’m almost certain I’m not pregnant, or the joke’s on me.

I recently read an old New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell called “John Rock’s Error.”  It’s a fascinating look into the unnatural evolution of our menstrual cycles and how we, as post-industrial women, have our periods roughly four times more in our lifetime than pre-industrial women.  John Rock was the co-inventor of the Pill and the article also discussed what he didn’t know about about woman’s health and menstruation.

As suggested in Gladwell’s piece,

In a brilliant and provocative book, “Is Menstruation Obsolete?,” Drs. Elsimar Coutinho and Sheldon S. Segal, two of the world’s most prominent contraceptive researchers, argue that this recent move to what they call “incessant ovulation” has become a serious problem for women’s health. It doesn’t mean that women are always better off the less they menstruate. There are times–particularly in the context of certain medical conditions–when women ought to be concerned if they aren’t menstruating: In obese women, a failure to menstruate can signal an increased risk of uterine cancer. In female athletes, a failure to menstruate can signal an increased risk of osteoporosis. But for most women, Coutinho and Segal say, incessant ovulation serves no purpose except to increase the occurrence of abdominal pain, mood shifts, migraines, endometriosis, fibroids, and anemia–the last of which, they point out, is “one of the most serious health problems in the world.”

The evolution of expecting our monthly periods is partly attributed to diet.  Our availability of certain high fat and high caloric foods have increase how often we have our period but also when we get our first period (menarche.)  Both early menarche and increased frequency of that time of the month have health consequences such as increased rates of reproductive cancers as the article discussed,

Ovarian and endometrial cancer are characteristically modern diseases, consequences, in part, of a century in which women have come to menstruate four hundred times in a lifetime.

I’m not a pre-industrial woman so having a late period is somewhat enerving.  But Gladwell’s article brings a different angle to our discussion on reproductive health and monthly cycles.  It’s well worth the read and I guarentee it’ll make you think about your own cycle, lifestyle, methods of contraception, and pregnancy just a little differently.

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