Have you ever wished Judy Blume would write a sequel to Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret from Margaret’s point of view today? Instead of telling us what happens to our 13-year-old bodies when we start anticipating our periods, she could tell us what happens to our 45-year-old bodies when we find ourselves suddenly skipping them.
It’s got a fancy name that nobody uses — oligomenorrhea — and a skipped period can bring up a range of emotions, from “OMG! Am I pregnant?!” to “Is there something wrong with me?” to “Am I really old enough for menopause?” The answers for someone in her mid-40s are “probably not,” “probably not,” and “probably not.” Because skipping periods as you grow older is totally normal.
“Menopause is defined as one year without a cycle, but the ovaries can start sputtering for years before, resulting in a missed period here and there, or even months without one,” explains Dr. Karen Hasty, of Four Season Ob/Gyn in San Antonio, Texas.
When It’s Not Normal
Dr. Hasty recommends bloodwork to see if decreasing hormones are the reason you start skipping periods. A doctor can help you determine the right course of action if so. But not every woman in her 40s is premenopausal, so if no other symptoms are present, consider other factors such as weight gain or loss, a significant increase in physical activity, or excessive stress, all of which can affect your menstrual cycle.
And, of course, you should rule out pregnancy. “Yes, we are still fertile in our 40s,” Dr. Hasty says.
If you rule out the above mentioned factors, have a doctor dig deeper. Is it a thyroid disorder? In a rare case, it could be cancer — especially if you have skipped periods for longer than six months and you have other contributing risks like obesity.
The bottom line is this: In most cases, a missed period or two for women over the age of 40 is perfectly normal and just a sign that your body is doing a reverse Margaret. Though that can be hard for some women to swallow, we suggest that you embrace the fact that you will be saving money on feminine hygiene products, can kiss monthly menstrual cramps goodbye, and wear white anytime you want. Who says aging doesn’t have its perks?