The Freakout: Your period due date came and went...along with your faith in your youth and fertility.
What else it might be: One missed period could be due to stress, certain types of medication, exercising too much, extreme weight fluctuations or, of course, pregnancy. If you've had sex in the past month (and aren't using reliable birth control), it's worth picking up a pregnancy test at the pharmacy—the kits are basically the same as the ones used at the doctor's office. Yes, this advice sounds obvious, but many female patients seem weirdly resistant to the idea that they might be pregnant—even if they would like to be, says Lauren Streicher, MD, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school. Streicher recently saw a patient whose mother had gone through early menopause; the patient thought her missed period meant she was, too...but it turned out she was at the end of her first trimester.
What to do: If your period is still MIA next month, make an appointment with your health care practitioner. (One of the official signs of menopause is when you haven't had any periods for a year, but you still want to address this sooner rather than later).
The Freakout: You got your period, then two weeks later got it again...and started to worry that your period-having days were numbered.
What else it might be: Are your periods usually as predictable as a Japanese train schedule? And you're not on the pill (or any other hormonal contraception), right? Then an irregular cycle could be just a hormonal hiccup...or it could be a shout that something more serious is going on. "Periods are important vital signs," says Jan Shifren, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. When they become irregular, it's often a sign that something is off. Double-periods can be due to polyps or fibroids in the uterus or abnormal thickening of the uterine lining. Also, we don't want to alarm you (as we mentioned, anxiety can disrupt your cycle), but erratic periods, especially when combined with hot flashes, can be a sign of premature ovarian insufficiency—different from premature menopause, in that you still have follicles, but they're not working properly.
What to do: It's worth talking to your gynecologist and getting your hormone levels evaluated—especially your FSH levels, says Shifren, which will give you a better idea of your fertility.
Next: Are you having a hot flash?!