Missing your period for three months in a row may mean you’re pregnant, or it can be a sign that you’re suffering from amenorrhea. This condition can have a physical cause or an emotional one. It may be tied to another condition, like polycystic ovarian syndrome, or be unrelated to other conditions. It may cause no symptoms or make you uncomfortable enough to visit your Brooklyn gynecologist at Century Medical and Dental Center. If you notice an absence of your menstruation, make an appointment with your doctor to make sure it’s not something serious that can affect your ability to conceive.
Although each woman’s monthly menstruation varies in length and symptomology, the normal 28-day cycle remains a measuring stick. It’s not unusual to occasionally miss a cycle, but missing your menstrual period for three or more months is called amenorrhea. The diagnosis of amenorrhea also applies to any young woman who reaches the age of 15 without starting her period.
Amenorrhea occurs because of an underlying condition. The most common reason for amenorrhea is because you’re pregnant, which isn’t a condition you necessarily want to fix. If you aren’t pregnant, your gynecologist specialist at Century Medical and Dental Center looks for issues with your hormone levels or reproductive organs.
Symptoms of Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea usually is accompanied by other, more uncomfortable side effects. Along with the absence of menstruation, you may also experience:
- Pelvic pain
- Loss of hair
- Nipple discharge
- Extra facial hair
- Changes in your vision
The symptoms that affect you may determine the underlying cause of your amenorrhea. Continued amenorrhea may indicate a serious medical concern. Because your gynecologist is part of a multi-disciplinary team at Century Medical and Dental Center, you have access to a wealth of experience to help, no matter what’s causing the condition.
Natural or primary amenorrhea results from pregnancy, breast-feeding — called lactational amenorrhea — and menopause. But other events in a women’s life may result in secondary amenorrhea. Common reasons for secondary amenorrhea include:
- Extremely low body weight, which disrupts the hormones required for menstruation
- Birth control pill side effects, a condition called post-pill amenorrhea
- Certain medications, such as allergy drugs, blood pressure medicine, cancer chemotherapy, some antidepressants and antipsychotics, producing a condition called induced amenorrhea
- Too much high-intensity exercise that causes exercise-induced amenorrhea
- Very high levels of mental stress that may temporarily disrupt the areas of the brain responsible for hormone release
- Hormonal causes, such as a thyroid malfunction, a pituitary tumor, conditions causing premature menopause or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which causes unusually high levels of certain hormones
- Conditions that alter the normal function of your reproductive organs, such as scarring in the uterus, a lack of the appropriate reproductive organs or some kind of abnormality in the vagina
- A condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea, which reflects a problem with the hypothalamus in your brain responsible for linking the endocrine system regulating your hormones with the nervous system, often caused by stress, excessive exercise or low body weight
- Any surgery that removes the uterus or ovaries, which stops your menstruation
You may be at greater risk for developing amenorrhea if you have an eating disorder, participate in extreme athletic training or have a family history of amenorrhea. Untreated, amenorrhea can lead to infertility problems and a risk of osteoporosis.
The primary consideration regarding amenorrhea involves whether the cause is structural or aggravated by your behaviors. Athletes focusing on their sport may not consider an absence of menstruation a problem. It’s not clear how temporary cessation of menstruation affects long-term fertility, but once you cease participating in extreme exercise, you may discover that your periods resume with some regularity.
In some cases, due to heavy bleeding or discomfort, you may desire medications that halt menstruation temporarily. Talk to your gynecologist in Brooklyn regarding your needs and future plans. If you believe that your amenorrhea symptoms pose a greater physical risk, your doctor can offer advice and solutions.
Treatment of Amenorrhea
Treatment depends completely on the cause of your amenorrhea. Obviously, if you’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding, your cycle usually resumes as normal after both end. If birth control medication or some other form of medicine has caused the absence of menstruation, you’re often recommended to stop taking the medicine or find alternatives, especially if you want to become pregnant. Menopause, of course, defines the end of your body producing the hormones that prompt menstruation.
Structural abnormalities may have to be resolved with surgery, although this treatment has its limits. If you have a tumor on your ovary, for example, surgery may resolve this issue, but it may mean you lose that ovary. Certain hormonal conditions respond to special hormone treatments. Other medications that support your immune system and encourage proper hormone release help certain conditions.
If your amenorrhea results from low body weight or a strenuous exercise routine, a nutritionist can develop a meal plan for you, and a physical therapist can help you develop a healthier exercise routine. Stress, depression and eating disorders respond to therapy, medication or rarely, hospitalization. If you’ve gone three months or more without a period, contact your medical specialist in Brooklyn at Century Medical and Dental Center for an evaluation to rule out amenorrhea or have it treated.