For most women, lack of a period is something that can become worrisome when it goes on for an extended period of time. But it may not be something worth losing sleep over. However, the technical term for this is amenorrhea, and it has many possible causes, some more serious than others.
There are two different types of amenorrhea, the first of which is primary amenorrhea. This is when a woman has never had a menstrual cycle and is over the age of sixteen. This type is less common, and its causes are rare. These causes are chromosomal abnormalities, problems with the hypothalamus, pituitary disease, lack of reproductive organs and structural abnormality of the vagina.
The more common and often less serious form of amenorrhea is secondary amenorrhea. This occurs when a woman who has already had a menstrual cycle stops having them. The most common and obvious cause of this is pregnancy. However, there are many other possible causes for missed periods.
If a woman is taking birth control pills, her period may stop. This also may occur with injections and other forms of contraceptives. Breast feeding women also often don’t have menstrual cycles. When a woman is under a lot of stress, her hypothalamus can become affected. Because this controls hormones, menstruation may stop as a result. This is not too serious though, because once a woman’s stress levels decrease, her period should come back.
Certain medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics can also affect this. Long illnesses can sometimes have this affect also, but as a woman becomes healthy her body will most likely return to normal.
Another cause of amenorrhea is hormonal imbalance. This is called PCOS, and women who have it have high levels of estrogen and androgen, the second of which is a male hormone. PCOS is also associated with obesity, heavy uterine bleeding, acne and excess facial hair. In contrast, excessively low body weight can prevent a woman’s body from having a period. This is because when body weight is at an unhealthy low level hormones in the body are disrupted.
Often, ballet dancers, gymnasts and long distance runners will have irregular periods or no period at all. The reasons for this are thought to be low body fat, stress and high energy expenditure.
While most women go through menopause between the ages of forty and fifty five, women that go through it earlier are considered to have amenorrhea. This can be caused by autoimmune disease or genetics, and sometimes no cause is found. A few more less common causes of secondary amenorrhea are thyroid malfunction, pituitary tumor and uterine scarring.
While some of these causes are serious, most of them are not and can be reversed. If you are over sixteen and have never had a period, or have missed three or more periods in a row, it is a good idea to consult a physician on this topic. In the meantime, relax and try to get a good night’s rest.