How Burnout Can Delay Ovulation

Apr 4, 2021

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND


A late period can be a source of stress all on its own. Is something wrong? Am I pregnant? Did my uterus suddenly go missing? We like to know when our period is coming and when it doesn’t show up it can create panic. The irony here is that the reason your period is delayed, though technically why your ovulation is delayed, is frequently due to stress. It can be stress you’ve experienced earlier in your cycle or even the stress you’re experiencing waiting for your period – both can actually make your period late.


Now, this is only true when you have no other common reasons for a late period, like pregnancy, breastfeeding, PCOS, or you’re entering perimenopause or menopause, if you have a thyroid problem or you’ve recently come off hormonal birth control pills or IUDs. Lots of things we have to rule out, eh? If all these reasons are not present, then one of the top causes is stress.


Stress causes late periods by its impact on the hormone cortisol. Stress causes a rise in this hormone, which then affects your other hormones – the levels produced and their interaction. Here are the top five areas this cortisol change can impact your other hormones



Blood Sugars

An increase in external stressors raises cortisol levels and disrupts your blood sugars which can disrupt your ovulation and your period.


Blocking Progesterone Production

That cortisol response has to get built out of somewhere, and when your body needs to increase its cortisol output, it has to lower something else. That something? Is progesterone. Your body uses the precursor to progesterone, pregenelone, to make more cortisol to react and respond to stress. This can not only delay your cycle, it can also make it difficult for you to conceive.


Short-Term Stress

If you experience an acute episode (what we call very short term) around the time that you normally ovulate, it can delay or even prevent ovulation. It makes sense – a pregnancy on top of a stressful period in a person’s life is not ideal. your body is basically trying to keep your energy available to address the stress before conception occurs.


Post-Ovulation Stress

If you ovulate and the stressor comes later in your cycle, it can potentially cause spotting, an early period or a period that might look a different. The consistency, colour, length or even cramping can all change in response to this.


It’s Not Actually A Period

It might be something we call a breakthrough bleed. You didn’t ovulate, so it’s not a physiological period – however, your uterus still needs to shed the lining it has built up.


Your late period is one of the ways your body is letting your know you might be under constant or chronic levels of stress. If you want to ovulate again you need to work on living a less stressed life. Not ovulating is not just an issue if you want to conceive, it also sets you up for more hormonal symptoms and period problems – everything from PMS, to acne, to cramps. A late period is more than just a nuisance or inconvenience, it’s also going to come with a bunch of other health issues.


Once you period is late, there’s not much you can do to make your period come when you want during that cycle. But you can avoid future late periods by taking action today.




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