Amenorrhea

What is amenorrhea?

If you don’t have your period for
more than 3 cycles, it is called amenorrhea. It may be classified as primary or
secondary:

  • Primary amenorrhea. Menstruation
    never starts at puberty.
  • Secondary amenorrhea. This type is due to some physical cause and usually of later onset. Your periods were at one time normal and regular but become increasingly abnormal and irregular or absent.

What causes amenorrhea?

There are several possible causes of amenorrhea, including:

  • Pregnancy. When you are pregnant, you don’t ovulate so your period stops temporarily.
  • Ovulation problems. These are usually
    the cause of very irregular or frequently missed periods.
  • Birth defect, anatomical defect, or other
    health condition. 
    If your period hasn’t started by age 16, it may be due to a
    birth defect, anatomical defect, or other medical condition.
  • Eating disorder. If you have anorexia
    or bulimia, you may develop amenorrhea. This is because your body weight can get too
    low to sustain a pregnancy. So to protect the body, the reproductive system “shuts
    down” because it’s severely malnourished.
  • Overexercise or strenuous exercise. If you exercise a lot, your periods may stop due to low body fat content.
  • Thyroid disorder. If you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) your periods may stop.
  • Obesity. If you are overweight, you may have amenorrhea as a result of excess fat cells getting in the way of the process of ovulation.

What are the symptoms of amenorrhea?

If you don’t have your period for more than 3 cycles, it is called amenorrhea.

How is amenorrhea diagnosed?

Diagnosis starts with a medical
history and a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam. Your healthcare provider
will want to rule out other menstrual disorders, medical conditions, or medicines that
may be causing or aggravating the condition. A diagnosis of amenorrhea means that you
miss at least 3 periods in a row, without being pregnant. Young women who haven’t had
their first menstrual period by age 15 should be evaluated promptly. Making an early
diagnosis and starting treatment as soon as possible is very important.