Missed period but not pregnant: Is it normal? Should you be worried?

Missing a period and having your pregnancy test come out negative sounds nearly impossible, right? But it's not impossible or uncommon. Aside from pregnancy, there are other causes of missed periods. Do you want to find out more and get answers to your pressing questions regarding missed periods accompanied by negative pregnancy tests? Keep reading.

A woman holding a menstrual cup with no period blood

Key takeaways

  • A missed period means the absence of menstruation in people with ovaries and uteruses. It can make trying to get pregnant or confirming an early pregnancy challenging for them. 
  • Most teenagers experience missed periods after their first menstruation, and this is often normal. So, if you miss your period as an adolescent, you don't need to get worried, as it will likely return after a few months and get stable with time.
  • However, if you are more than 18 years old but miss your period regularly or for more than six months and are not pregnant, then it is a cause for concern. Consider seeing a doctor for proper assessment and treatment.

Missed period means the absence of menstrual bleeding in people with uteruses who are naturally supposed to be having regular menstrual cycles. A missed period is sometimes called a late period or "skipping a cycle".

A missed period is often one of the first signs of pregnancy, but not every time. A person can miss their period and not be pregnant. Missed periods can be caused by other factors aside from pregnancy, such as stress, changes in weight, hormonal imbalances, certain medical conditions, or certain medications.

Should you be worried if you miss your period but are not pregnant?

It depends. You should not be worried if you miss your period "without being pregnant" if you are in puberty or early adolescence. Most female adolescents experience some cycles of missed periods after their first menstruation (called menarche). This doesn't mean they are pregnant. They will often find that their menstrual cycle stabilizes over time.

However, if you are past the adolescence stage and experience a consistent absence of your period—for instance, seeing your period for two months and missing it for the next two or three months—and it keeps going on and on, yet your pregnancy results come out negative, then that should require you to consult with a doctor.

Also, missing your period for more than six months after having normal cycles and in the absence of pregnancy is called secondary amenorrhea. This condition can be attributed to an underlying illness and needs medical attention.

Missed periods might be attributed to other factors aside from pregnancy, and consulting a doctor is most likely the best decision to make if you miss your period. Your doctor will carry out some physical examinations and possibly send you to the lab for a series of tests to determine the cause so they can treat you accordingly.

Reasons for missed period aside from pregnancy

A missed period can be caused by various factors other than pregnancy. It's important to remember that if you're sexually active and miss a period, you should consider taking a pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy, and if negative, one of the following might be the cause:

  • Stress: Being stressed out physically or emotionally can disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause missed periods. Stress affects a part of the brain that helps regulate hormones. These changes can lead to missed periods.
  • Ovulatory disorders: Conditions like anovulation (lack of ovulation) can lead to missed or irregular periods. When ovulation does not occur or is disrupted, it can affect the regularity of the menstrual cycle and result in skipped or missed periods.
  • Weight changes: Losing or gaining too much weight and engaging in extreme dieting can alter your menstrual cycle. It can disrupt your normal hormone levels and cause missed periods.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that can result in irregular periods or missed periods due to an imbalance of hormones in your body.
  • Thyroid disorders: When you have an abnormal amount of thyroid hormone in the form of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), you might have irregular periods or may even miss your periods for months.
  • Birth control methods: Hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, Depo Provera, or IUDs, can alter menstrual patterns, sometimes leading to missed periods. However, this is not the same for everyone.
  • Perimenopause: Women who are in their 40s and 50s may experience irregular menstrual cycles and eventually miss periods as they approach menopause. This is a common sign in perimenopausal women.
  • Uterine issue: Uterine issues such as fibroids and polyps can contribute to missed or irregular periods. These conditions can affect the normal functioning of the uterus or ovaries, leading to changes in your menstrual cycle.
  • Excessive exercise: Prolonged and/or intense physical activity in female athletes can influence their hormonal levels and cause missed periods. They may also develop a condition referred to as the female athlete triad, which is accompanied by two other symptoms: weight loss and low bone mass.
  • Recent illness or surgery: Severe illness, surgery, or a major medical procedure can temporarily disrupt your menstrual cycle. This change is usually temporary, and once your body recovers and stabilizes, your menstrual cycle should return to normal.
  • Breastfeeding: Some people who practice exclusive breastfeeding for their babies often experience missed periods( also known as lactational amenorrhoea). This may contribute to why some people see exclusive breastfeeding as a form of natural birth control. However, this method does not entirely stop you from becoming pregnant. Try other, more effective methods of family planning if you don't want to get pregnant. 
  • Early puberty: Young females who just started menstruating are more likely to miss their period for some months after their menarche. This is normal, and the periods will often become regular after a few months.

It is important to keep records of your menstrual cycle, as this will enable you to know when you have a missed period and when to see a doctor.

No period, but negative pregnancy test and cramping

Some people experience missed periods along with cramping, yet their pregnancy tests come out negative. This can be caused by several factors.

Here are possible causes for a missed period, negative pregnancy test, and cramping:

1. Hormonal imbalance

Fluctuations in hormone levels can cause missed periods and cramping. These can occur due to factors such as stress, changes in weight, thyroid disorders, or certain medical conditions that affect your normal hormonal functions.

2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can cause irregular periods, missed periods, and abdominal pain or discomfort. It is often associated with other symptoms, such as excess hair growth and acne.

3. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the reproductive organs, often caused by sexually transmitted infections. It can cause abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in menstrual patterns, including missed periods.

4. Chemotherapy drugs

Some drugs used in cancer treatment can affect the ovaries and disrupt estrogen production. This can lead to menstrual irregularities, including missed periods. Chemotherapy can also cause cramping or pelvic pain in some women.

5. Ovarian cyst

Ovarian cysts disrupt the normal function of your hormones, and as such, they are thought to cause missed periods. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and resolve on their own, while some cysts may be so big that they rupture and cause pain.

Why you may have a late period, negative pregnancy test, and light bleeding

Period-related issues can occur in different forms for different people. There are cases where a person doesn't see their period when they are supposed to, but instead, they experience light bleeding (spotting), yet a pregnancy test they ran came out negative. Such a situation can be confusing, making one wonder what's going on with their body.

You should know that even with one negative pregnancy test, you could still be pregnant, and the light bleeding may be due to the embryo implanting into the walls of your uterus. A pregnancy test detects the presence of HCG hormone in urine. This hormone increases during pregnancy. But if you tested for pregnancy too early (say, within two weeks after your missed period), it is possible there might not be enough HCG hormone in your urine for your testing tool to detect that you are pregnant.

So when you have a late or missed period but experience light bleeding and you have a negative pregnancy test, you may want to wait a few more days and then test again to be sure you are not pregnant. Also, to further reduce the chance of a false negative test, it is best to test early in the morning. Remember, you can always speak to a gynecologist about these confusing health concerns.

Missed period, negative pregnancy test, and white vaginal discharge

A whitish-yellow vaginal discharge is one of the symptoms of pregnancy for some people. And as explained earlier, your first pregnancy test coming out negative does not always mean you are not pregnant. So if yours is a case of "missed period, negative pregnancy test, and white discharge," you may need to test again with the right testing tool and at the most appropriate time (early morning if you are using a home test strip).

But if, after testing again, you find that you are not pregnant, you should speak to a doctor. Medical conditions like PCOS can cause you to experience missed or irregular periods, while the following can cause white vaginal discharge:

  • Yeast infection
  • Ovulation
  • Bacterial vaginosis

It is possible you have multiple underlying medical conditions causing your symptoms.

Wrap up

An average person with a uterus and ovaries goes through various menstrual cycle irregularities or unusual symptoms, and a missed period is one of them.

Sometimes, it is nothing you should be worried about, as your period might return to normal. However, if you exceed 6 months without a period or you keep experiencing missed periods consistently and in random months, then you should consider seeking medical attention.

If you have concerns about a missed period, especially if it persists or is accompanied by severe cramping or other unusual symptoms, your doctor can help walk you through what’s going on in your body.

It's important to consult with a certified healthcare professional or a specialist—usually a gynecologist—who will perform a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment or guidance based on your diagnosis.


  1. Skřenková J. (2018). Postmenarcheal irregularities in menstrual cycle in adolescent girls.
  2. MedlinePlus (2022). Absent menstrual periods - secondary
  3. Planned Parenthood (2015). Can stress delay your menstrual cycle?
  4. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2022). My period has changed. Is menopause around the corner?
  5. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2022). The Healthy Female Athlete
  6. Van der Wijden C, Manion C. (2015). Lactational amenorrhoea method for family planning.
  7. National Cancer Institute (2020). Fertility Issues in Girls and Women with Cancer
  8. InformedHealth.org (2019). Ovarian cysts: Overview