If a woman, who has been having normal menstrual cycles, stops getting her periods, it’s called secondary amenorrhea. In primary amenorrhea the menstrual periods have never begun. There can be different things that cause your menstruation to stop unexpectedly. Here are ten possibilities.
1 You’re pregnant
This is the most logical reason. You’re not menstruating because your egg has been fertilised and is nestling itself in the endometrial lining. Therefore the endometrial lining doesn’t need to be shed.
2 You’re in the (pre)menopause
The average age for UK women to reach the menopause is 51. But the time before that – and this can already start when you’re 35 – is called the premenopause. Symptoms? Mood changes, hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, palpitations, a changing menstruation with more or less bleeding and an irregular cycle. The closer you get to the menopause, the more severe the symptoms usually get.
3 You’re exercising too hard
If you’re no longer menstruating but also not pregnant or (peri)menopausal, it’s called functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. One of the most common causes of this amenorrhea is excessive exercise. Top athletes such as marathon runners are familiar with this. Exercising releases endorphins. Too much exercise and these endorphins suppress the hypothalamus, the section in the brain responsible for hormone production. This leads to a deterred pituitary gland, which task it is to send out the female hormones. The same thing happens when the level of body fat is below 16%, something that also isn’t uncommon for top athletes and ballet dancers for example. The easiest solution: more fat and calories, less exercise.
4 You’ve lost too much weight too quickly
Rapid weight loss and also more periods anymore. It might sound too good to be true, but it’s actually not such a good thing. Not menstruating is the body’s way of showing it’s too weak for a pregnancy. Anorexia nervosa is a common cause of this; with this disorder the level of body fat mostly drops below 16%. However, also bulimia nervosa can be the cause of menstrual dysfunctions.
5 You’re experiencing too much long-lasting stress
Stress is normally a good thing: it’s your body’s natural way of responding to any kind of threat. It causes a surge of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which enable the body to perform better and deal with pressure. The so-called ‘fight or flight’ response. However, too much long-lasting stress has a bad influence on all sorts of things. The continuous pressure and hormones disrupt normal processes such as the ovulation, which is slowed down or postponed.
6 You’re experiencing an acute stress reaction
Extremely stressful situations, such as a war, accident or death of a family member, can cause your menstruation to temporarily stop. Sometimes this will last for months. This is nature’s way of taking care: when you’re in that much stress, your body can’t handle a pregnancy. So there’s no need for periods either.
7 You have a thyroid disorder
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, just below your larynx. It manufactures and releases important hormones to ensure a healthy metabolism. The thyroid can release too little or be overactive and release too much of these hormones. Both cases can influence your menstruation. Because the symptoms can be very diverse, a thyroid disorder is hard to diagnose. When in doubt, ask your GP for a blood test.
8 You have another (chronic) disease or disorder
Your menstruation cycle is connected to your overall health. If you aren’t in good shape, problems can occur. Infections such as the flu, but also diabetes mellitus (DM) and coeliac disease can affect your cycle. This also works the other way around: a menstruation stop at a too early age can cause problems such as osteoporosis (a bone disease).
9 You are using medication or the contraceptive pill
The positive side effect of the contraceptive pill? You can use it to regulate your menstruation. No pill-free week equals no period. Once you completely stop taking the contraceptive pill it can take a while until you start menstruating again. This can also happen when using other forms of contraception, such as the coil or implants. Other medication can cause an irregular cycle as well. Chemotherapy, for example, is known to alter your periods by stopping your ovaries from working for a while or even permanently. Did you just start on a new medication and have your periods stopped? Make sure to read the instruction leaflet and/or visit your GP.
10 You are suffering from PCOS (or other hormonal problems)
With the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome( PCOS) your ovaries produce too much male hormones. Because of this, ovulation happens less often, leading to irregular periods or no menstruation at all. Women who suffer from PCOS often have larger ovaries that contain a great number of harmless cysts.
European Fertility Week 2017 is from 6-12 November.