When your period decides to come and go as it pleases it can be frustrating! And it can also be scary when you are sexually active and trying to avoid pregnancy.
The medical term for one or more missed periods is called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea can be diagnosed in a menstruating female if she has missed at least 3 periods in a row.
While the most common reason for not getting your period is pregnancy, there are many others reasons that are relatively common in women of all ages! These include changes in lifestyle, side effects of medication, and problems with the reproductive organs or hormone levels. To avoid unnecessary anxiety when your period is late or absent, think about if any of these situations apply to you.
Here are some of the most common reasons why females have fluctuations in their menstrual cycle besides for pregnancy. Read them and see if you learn anything new!
1. Stress. Stress can temporarily alter hormone levels that regulate the menstrual cycle. Therefore, when you have high stress levels ovulation and menstruation may temporarily stop. Your period should go back to normal after your stress dissipates.
2. Weight loss. Very low body weight disrupts various hormonal functions in your body, and often results in temporary loss of menstruation.
3. Increased exercise. When your body undergoes intense exercise, low body fat, high energy expenditure, and stress can occur. This can result in a disrupted menstrual cycle. This is often seen in females who participate in sports that require intense training, such as ballet, gymnastics and long-distance running.
4. Medication. There are several medications that may affect your menstrual cycle. Certain birth control medications as well as other contraceptives such as Depo (the shot), Implanon, and some IUDs may cause amenorrhea. These contraceptive methods affect your hormones and cause changes to your period. (Side note: when you stop taking birth control your period may stop for up to a few months as your hormone levels adjust!). Other commonly used medications that can alter your period include antipsycholtics, antidepressants, and blood pressure drugs. Take home message: it is always important to know about the side effects of the medications that you take!
5. Underlying disorders. Thyroid malfunction, pituitary tumor, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are just three of some of the more common disorders that can have an affect on your menstrual cycle. While hormone levels in a normal menstrual cycle fluctuate, PCOS causes hormones levels to remain at a relatively high level, thus disrupting your cycle. An overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid gland can also cause menstrual changes, due to inappropriate production levels of hormones. A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in your pituitary gland that can interfere with the hormonal regulation of menstruation, resulting in menstrual changes or amenorrhea. Your doctor can help you navigate through diagnosis and treatment for each of these disorders.
This is by no means a complete list of everything can can cause amenorrhea, but does include some of the most common reasons that people often forget about!! For more information about how your body regulates hormones or about other causes of amenorrhea make sure to ask a healthcare provider. Don’t be shy, that is what they are there for!