Amenorrhea is the term used to describe what happens if you’ve missed three periods in a row. The most common cause of amenorrhea is pregnancy, but if you’re not pregnant or in menopause you should know that there are several other reasons.
1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes irregular periods, excess facial and body hair, acne, weight gain, and ovarian cysts. If left unmanaged PCOS can lead to long-term health problems, including type-2 diabetes or fertility issues. There is no single test to diagnose PCOS, but your doctor may use an ultrasound to detect ovarian cysts, a blood test to check hormone levels, or a glucose tolerance test to figure out how your body responds to insulin. Diet and exercise can be really effective at relieving PCOS symptoms and balancing hormones. Other treatments may include a low dose birth-control pill and/or medication to restore hormone balance.
2. Premature menopause
1 in 10 women will experience premature menopause (before the age of 40). While the reasons for spontaneous premature menopause are not totally understood, the bottom line is that the ovaries stop working and ovulation ceases. Symptoms would include those similar to menopause – hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, weight gain, hair thinning, and vaginal dryness. If you suspect premature menopause, make an appointment with your doctor and let them know what you’re experiencing. There are simple blood tests that can confirm your hormone levels and determine what’s going on. Because premature menopause puts women at risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, it is important to check in with your doc.
Maintaining a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and active lifestyle, staying hydrated, and staying committed to a routine of good self-care are recommended ways to manage the symptoms. Treatment may include Hormone Replacement Therapy.
3. Thyroid Dysfunction
An overactive thyroid can cause irregular periods, increased heart rate, sweating, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, hair loss, and muscle weakness. Whereas an underactive thyroid tends to cause heavier, longer periods, slower heart rate, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, weight gain, and weakness. A blood test can confirm thyroid hormone imbalance. Many docs will opt to draw TSH only, but you may want to request a full Thyroid Panel to get a more complete picture. If your thyroid is out of whack, medication will likely be prescribed to regulate your thyroid hormone. You can also support your thyroid health with nutrition. Consume a few Brazil nuts daily (not more than 4) to get your RDA of selenium. Sea vegetables are a tasty source of iodine. Follow general guidelines for a healthy diet – avoiding gluten and dairy for a month at least to see if it makes a difference for you.
4. Weight loss and over-exercising
Weighing too much or too little can mess with your cycle. Intense, prolonged exercise or training and/or sudden loss of weight, due to illness, an eating disorder, or unhealthy dieting, can trigger Amenorrhea. If your weight is 15% less than what it should be for your age, height, and weight, then you may encounter this problem. In this case, stress hormones and metabolism are factors in hormone disruption. The longer your body is out of balance, the more difficult it may be to get back into a normal menstrual cycle.
Talk to your doc on this one. It’s a good idea to get support. Meantime, focus on nourishing yourself. Aim for a balance of protein, fat, and fiber in every meal, even if it’s a small one. Bone broth, nutrient-dense smoothies, and blended soups can be a delicious way to get needed nutrients into your beautiful body.
Some medications can stop periods. Birth control pills can do it, depending on the dose and hormones involved. Other meds can too. If you are taking prescription meds, talk with your doctor or pharmacist and see if this might be a trigger for you. Do not stop taking medication prescribed for you without talking with your doctor first.
If nothing on this list seems to fit your situation, reach out to your trusted doctor or medical professional. You deserve to feel great and have a healthy cycle.