Depression Causes Can Depression Make Your Period Late? By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 05, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Depression and Menstrual Cycle Causes of a Missed Period The Role of Depression Treatment Options There are many reasons a woman's period may be late or her cycle may go off schedule. An obvious one is pregnancy. Others include poor nutrition, excessive exercise, and long-term illness. A less obvious reason for amenorrhea or missing a period, however, is depression. The link between mental health and reproductive health makes sense when you consider that nature does everything it can to create favorable conditions for reproduction. If a woman is chronically stressed, anxious, sad, or upset, she's really not in a physical or emotional position to go through a pregnancy and then take care of and nurture a child. Under these less than ideal conditions, the female reproductive system can shut down. 4:33 Watch Now: 7 Most Common Types of Depression How Depression Affects the Menstrual Cycle The stress hormone cortisol is primarily responsible for changes in a woman's cycle when she's depressed. As cortisol levels rise in response to stress, the hypothalamus, an organ in the brain that plays an important part in regulating the reproductive system, stops sending signals to the ovaries to do their job. Without this signal, ovulation (the monthly release of an egg from the ovary) is either delayed or stopped altogether. The result is a late period or sometimes no period at all. The medical term for absent periods when there's no pregnancy is amenorrhea, which also can be caused by health issues other than stress including problems with the hypothalamus, the pituitary glands, the ovaries, the uterus, or the vagina. Pinpointing the Cause of a Missed Period Of course, the first thing you should do if your period is late is to take a pregnancy test, which can be accurate as early as the first day of your missed period. If it's negative and you don't get your period in a few days or you completely skip it that cycle, or if you're having chronic problems with menstruation, make an appointment to see your gynecologist. She'll likely do a repeat pregnancy test. If it's negative, she'll move on to some basic evaluations such as asking you about your medical history, doing a pelvic exam, and taking blood samples to check your hormone levels. Diagnostic Tests Depending on what these preliminary tests reveal, plus other basic factors such as your age, she may move on to more specific diagnostic methods, which may include: Chromosome evaluation to look for chromosomal variations such as Turner syndromeGenetic testing to see if you have fragile X syndromeA hysteroscopy to examine the inside of your uterusAn MRI to check for a pituitary tumorAn ultrasound computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to make sure your reproductive organs are normal Is Depression the Problem? Amenorrhea caused by chronic stress and depression is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. If you tend to eat more or less than usual when you're depressed and have gained or lost weight, that also could play a part in your menstrual irregularities. If your doctor has determined that depression is behind your late or missed periods, getting back on track will be a matter of finding an effective way to reduce your stress and treat your depression. Treatment Options There are many different ways to treat irregular or absent periods depending on your overall mental health and menstrual irregularities. This can include a wait and see approach (if it's only happened a handful of times), stress management strategies, therapy, and/or prescription medication. Consult with your gynecologist or mental health care professional to determine the type of treatment plan that's best for your physical and mental health. Lifestyle Changes Making an effort to manage stress will reduce your risk of becoming depressed and missing your period. In addition to eating a well rounded diet and practicing good sleep hygiene, try to incorporate stress-lowering activities into your day. While there isn't a one size fits all option when it comes to stress relief, a few ideas to consider include: Deep breathing Journaling Light exercise (such as walking) Meditation Support groups (online or in-person) Yoga 18 Effective Stress Relief Strategies Prescription Medication An antidepressant, such as Prozac (fluoxetine) or Zoloft (sertraline), can be an effective way to relieve symptoms of depression—but it's not right for everyone. In addition to possible side effects, some antidepressants can even cause your period to be late or delayed. You may even be prescribed oral contraceptives to create a regular schedule of withdrawal bleeds, however, combination birth control pills have been linked to depression, so make sure to alert your doctor to your mental health history. It may take some trial and error, but it is possible to get back to feeling normal and your body back to functioning normally. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. An Overview of the Treatments for Depression 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. What causes amenorrhea? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. January 31, 2017. Fourman LT, Fazeli PK. Neuroendocrine causes of amenorrhea--an update. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(3):812-24. doi:10.1210/jc.2014-3344 Additional Reading National Institutes of Health. Amenorrhea. May 7, 2013. By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Depression Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.