Late Period

You have been sexually active and now your period is late. If you haven't had a pregnancy test yet, don't assume you are pregnant. The length of the menstrual cycle can vary with small and major changes the cycle at certain times. Late or missed periods can be due to:

  • pregnancy
  • stress and fatigue
  • excessive weight loss
  • excessive exercise
  • hormone disturbance
  • coming off the combined oral contraceptive pill
  • for up to 12 months after depo-provera or the injectable contraceptive.

Have a pregnancy test! If you think you may be pregnant, a pregnancy test is the best way to find out for sure. When a woman becomes pregnant, the pregnancy hormone (called HCG) can be found in the woman’s urine and blood. Urine tests or blood tests can detect this hormone by the time the period is noted to be late.

To have a pregnancy test, visit your local doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic. If the pregnancy is unintended, you can talk about any concerns you may have.

You can also use a pregnancy test at home. These can be bought from large supermarkets or pharmacies. If you follow the instructions exactly, you should get an accurate result. The most common reason for a falsely negative result is doing the test too early. Therefore, wait for at least one week after your period was due as it may just be late.The best time to do the test is with the first urine passed in the morning. Alternately, wait until you haven't passed urine for a couple of hours before doing the test.

Pain killers such as aspirin and panadol, the pill (oral contraceptive pill), antibiotics and alcohol do not affect the result of pregnancy tests. Occasionally, rare medical conditions can give a false positive result.

If you are pregnant, there are sometimes other signs of pregnancy. These signs vary from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy. They may include:

  • very light or short period
  • swelling, tenderness or tingling in the breasts
  • going to the toilet to pass urine frequently
  • feeling very tired
  • nausea or vomiting
  • feeling bloated or crampy
  • appetite change (may be more hungry or less hungry)
  • changes in digestion (constipation, heartburn)
  • mood changes.

Remember, having these symptoms does not always indicate pregnancy.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy after sex. This could happen:

  • if no contraception was used
  • if a condom broke
  • if a woman was sexually assaulted.

If you have had unprotected sex and consider yourself at risk of pregnancy, see your local pharmacy, doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic to discuss emergency contraception. Emergency contraception (formerly named the Morning After Pill) must be taken within 72 hours (or three days) of unprotected sex, and taken with in the first 24 hours is proven to be more effective. The emergency contraceptive pill can be purchased from a chemist without a doctors prescription.

Practical Advice

If you get a positive result and want to continue with the pregnancy discuss pregnancy care with your local doctor or family planning clinic. Make sure you are taking folic acid every day to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord of the developing baby. You should take 400 micrograms every day. This can be from foods that are rich in folic acid or from folic acid tablets (available from pharmacies or supermarkets). Talk with your doctor or nurse about your diet, smoking, alcohol, and other things you can do to enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

An unintended pregnancy?

If you are pregnant and need to seek help about what to do next, please talk with a professional person. Sooner is better than later. See your local doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic. If you are uncomfortable talking with your family doctor, find someone who you are comfortable talking with. Get advice about your options. Think about your options carefully. Don't leave it too late.

A negative result

If you and your partner are having difficulties becoming pregnant, discuss your concerns with your local doctor or family planning clinic. In planning a pregnancy, have a check up and talk with the doctor or clinic nurse about your diet, smoking and alcohol.

You may be pleased you’re not pregnant, if so we urge you to use contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies and to use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmissible infections. To decide what method of contraception is best for you, see your local doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic. You can have a sexual health check and get information about safe sex.

If you can’t explain why your period is late and you are not pregnant, see your local doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic. Have a check up and make sure everything is OK.