Health | Fitness

Period Gone MIA: Reasons Why Your Cycle Has Stopped

The human body is a magnificent display of intricate processes and elegant wonder. For women, one of these displays is through our menstrual cycle. While women, in general, each have varying attitudes and opinions towards their periods, menstruation can be an indicator of our overall health. Paying attention and keeping track of your menstrual cycle and pattern can be a critical alerting factor to what’s happening and if something could potentially be wrong internally. One thing that could indicate your current health status could be the lack of a period, otherwise known as amenorrhea.

What is Amenorrhea?

Strictly speaking, amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation. It can be characterized by either 3 missed periods in a row or by females who haven’t started their menstrual cycle by the age of 16. That said, amenorrhea isn’t often considered a disease or health issue in itself. Instead, it’s the sign of another underlying health condition with the most common one being pregnancy, as it’s an early pregnancy symptom. Here’s what you should know about amenorrhea and how you should treat it.

Types of amenorrhea

You can either have primary or secondary amenorrhea, and the underlying causes differ with each type.

Primary

Primary amenorrhea occurs when you have never had your period, and you are 16 years of age. It has a few different causes. One is chromosomal or genetic abnormalities that cause the ovaries to stop functioning regularly. The second is problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, which creates an imbalance of hormones in the body. If excessive exercise, an eating disorder, or other extreme physical or psychological stress factors are present, this can also disrupt these functions in the body and delay menstruation. Although it’s rare, physical problems like the blockage or absence of reproductive organs may lead to primary amenorrhea as well.

Secondary

Secondary amenorrhea — when you miss three periods in a row — can also occur. This may be due to natural causes, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, medication like birth control or antidepressants, or other hormone therapies. Additionally, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, thyroid problems, pituitary tumors, and gynecological problems can all cause you to miss your period. Finally, hypothalamic amenorrhea is another condition when women miss their menstrual cycle because their body ceases to release the hormone that starts it. Common characteristics for these women include low caloric intake, low body weight, a low percentage of body fat, emotional stress, and strenuous exercise.

Physician talking to concerned patient

What to expect with amenorrhea

While amenorrhea is itself considered a symptom, you may experience additional signs and symptoms as a result. These include hair loss, pelvic pain, excess facial hair, vision changes, headache, hair loss, and milky nipple discharge.

If you believe you’re experiencing amenorrhea, the underlying lesson is that absent periods are often a medical sign of another condition. It may be an early pregnancy symptom. It could indicate a thyroid problem or PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. It may also highlight the start of menopause. If you are experiencing primary or secondary amenorrhea, don’t hesitate to go to your doctor! This is one of your body’s indications that something is up. By identifying it early, you can get the help that you need to get everything back in balance.

The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood. The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth…

Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

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