Amenorrhea is a word that you’ve probably heard of before but may not have known exactly what it means. In simple terms, amenorrhea is the absence of your period. Sounds pretty alright to me! Women can be diagnosed with amenorrhea once they have missed three or more cycles, as can girls 15 years and older who have yet to begin menstruation. There can be a myriad of reasons as to why amenorrhea can occur, the most common cause being pregnancy. Other natural causes can be breast feeding and menopause. Amenorrhea is also often a sign of an underlying health condition, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Contraceptives like the pill, implanon (contraceptive implant) and IUD’s like the Mirena may also cause your cycle to stop. After you’ve stopped taking medicinal contraceptives it may take some time for ovulation to return and your period to begin again. Other women who take contraceptives may experience no interruption to their cycle at all. Annoyingly, some may experience the dreaded spotting and irregular periods. No thanks!
There are some other medications that your doctor might prescribe for illnesses that may have the side effect of amenorrhea. These include some cancer medications, antipsychotics, antidepressants, blood pressure medication and anti-allergy drugs.
Weight Loss and Stress
Sometimes when you’ve experienced excessive weight loss and if you are about 10% below recommended body weight, amenorrhea can occur. Being at a low weight can interrupt many of your bodies hormonal functions, like ovulation, stopping your period. Amenorrhea is sometimes experienced by women who have eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia due to hormonal changes influenced by low weight or excessive exercise.
Stress can also be a contributing factor in the onset of amenorrhea, altering the function of your hypothalamus. This area of your brain controls the hormones that regulate your period. This is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. Regular periods usually return once stressed is eased. Easier said than done, right?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or known more commonly as PCOS, probably deserves a blog post all of its own but we’ll touch lightly on it here. PCOS happens when your body produces more hormones called androgens than normal. This can causes cysts to form on your ovaries and interfere with the release of eggs. Not ideal! Most people with PCOS experience either irregular period or amenorrhea.
As mentioned above amenorrhea is often a sign that something is going awry in your body, rather than a condition in and of itself. If you’re experiencing a loss of periods, and you’ve ruled out pregnancy, its probably best to consult your friendly local GP for advice and a check up. Because being in charge of your gynaecological health is super cool, babe!