In this busy day and age, we’re not always the best about listening to our bodies, but a missed period will set off alarm bells in most women’s heads as a clear sign that something is up. The most obvious answer is that amenorrhea (the medical term for a missing period) is a sign of pregnancy, but for those who are not sexually active or for whom a pregnancy test has ruled that reason out, what could be the root cause of a missed period? Turns out, there are a lot of potential reasons.
For starters, how long should you be skipping periods before you start to worry? Typically once a pregnancy has been ruled out, the time span varies based on regularity. If you’re usually very regular, start talking to your doctor after a few months have passed. If you have a history of being irregular, six to nine months is usually the time to start looking for the cause of your amenorrhea.
Nutrition and Lifestyle
When the body doesn’t receive enough nutrients, endures exercise that is too intense, or a combination of those factors, the reproductive system shuts down to try to help the body cope with the physical stress. Amenorrhea is a common symptom of eating disorders for this reason, but it’s also seen in athletes or people with intense and unhealthy fitness regimens. You may see the myth floating around in weight loss and exercise circles that a missing period means you’re on the right track and working hard enough, but this is false– and dangerous. If you’ve noticed your period stopping as a result of your diet and physical activity, it’s time to reassess. Make sure you’re getting enough nutrients of all kinds and not over-exerting yourself when you exercise.
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder, and even though it’s fairly common, it is often overlooked. Irregular or missing periods are a symptom of PCOS, as well as infertility problems, weight struggles, and excessive body hair and acne. A doctor can diagnose PCOS through checking your hormone levels with a blood test. If you suspect you have PCOS, it’s important to bring it up to your doctor and ask about being tested, because women with PCOS are at a higher risk for diabetes, and you may need regular screening to help you avoid this additional problem.
If tests have ruled out hormonal problems like PCOS but you’re still having trouble figuring out why your period is missing, it’s possible that your thyroid might be the problem. Because there are so many potential causes for amenorrhea, the thyroid isn’t often the first thing doctors test for, but it is important to consider it as a factor when other explanations don’t add up.
Going off the pill and suddenly having a missing period can be a shock when you’ve gotten used to the regularity that the pill offers, but it’s not unheard of. Some women do experience about four to six months of amenorrhea after stopping the pill, so if you’ve just cancelled your prescription, make sure you rule out pregnancy as a cause, and then give your period a little time to come back before you really start worrying.
We all know that menopause marks the end of our menstruating years, but your period won’t just stop dead as you approach this age. In most cases, it’s a slower process in which your period becomes irregular and unpredictable, often just skipping a month. It’s important to note that you can still become pregnant at this time in your life! When your period is irregular it becomes harder to predict ovulation, so make sure you stay on top of your birth control methods if a baby isn’t in the cards for you at this time.
With the craziness that accompanies a new baby, you may be grateful to hear that periods often stop during breastfeeding, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding. During the weaning process it may crop back up and be irregular at first before settling back into your natural cycle, but again remember that missing or irregular periods does not mean it’s impossible for you to get pregnant. Ovulation comes before the period, and it can still happen if you aren’t careful.
There’s a good reason that medical professionals of all types are always urging their patients to lower their stress levels. Stress really can damage your physical health, and one of the telltale signs of this is menstruation coming to a stop. When stress of any kind becomes intense enough, the body goes through changes that allow it to better handle danger, and one of these changes is shutting down the reproductive system. If tests and discussion with your doctor have ruled out other causes and conditions, it may come down to the stress of your life forcing your body into a constant state of fight or flight.
With these potential causes for a missing period in mind, you’re now ready to take charge of your own health and get to the bottom of what’s going on with your body. Renewed Vitality is passionate about helping people stay informed and involved in their health. We are the Berks County area’s top facility for hormone replacement therapy and other treatments. To learn more, don’t hesitate to contact us!