You may have heard that stressing out can cause your period to be late. But, is there any truth to this? While stress won’t delay your period, it can delay ovulation. If ovulation is delayed your period will be late as well. In other words, worrying about being pregnant won’t delay your period. But, if you are under stress during the time you might be ovulating, ovulation can be delayed and likewise your period would also be delayed.
The first half of a woman’s cycle, the time from menstruation to ovulation, can vary in length from woman to woman and from cycle to cycle. If ovulation is delayed the first half of the woman’s cycle (the follicular phase) will be longer. Or, if she ovulates early for some reason her follicular phase would be shorter.
The second half of a woman’s cycle (the luteal phase), on the other hand, is consistent and pretty much the same length – give or take a few days – from woman to woman regardless of when she ovulates. The luteal phase is around 12-14 days. When a woman ovulates she can expect to have her period about 14 days later. This is why the luteal phase is often referred to as the “two week wait.”
If a woman is under stress she may ovulate late. This will cause her cycle to be longer and therefore her period would be late. But, her period is late because ovulation is late. If she were under stress after ovulation has already happened, the stress would not cause her to be late because the luteal phase is always around the same length.
A gland known as the corpus luteum secretes progesterone during the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle. Progesterone makes the lining of your uterus thick and nutrient rich, just right for implantation. The corpus luteum is formed from what is left of the follicle after ovulation and it doesn’t live very long. If your egg is not fertilized after ovulation and the corpus luteum doesn’t start receiving hCG from your developing embryo, it simply disintegrates. When this happens it stops secreting progesterone and the lining of your uterus will be shed in preparation for the next cycle.
Being under stress will not make the corpus luteum live longer. If your luteal phase seems to last much longer than 16 days you have most likely miscalculated ovulation or you are pregnant. If your period is late, even if you are under stress, you should take a pregnancy test to find out if you are pregnant as soon as possible.