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Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is the absence of a monthly period. Women normally do not menstruate before puberty, during pregnancy, and after menopause. If amenorrhea happens at other times, it may be the symptom of a treatable medical condition.

There are two types of amenorrhea: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea.

  • Primary amenorrhea is the absence of a first period in a young woman by the age of 16.
  • Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who has had normal menstrual cycles stops getting her monthly period.
What causes amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea can be caused by any number of changes in the organs, glands, and hormones involved in menstruation.

Primary amenorrhea possible causes include

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  • Failure of the ovaries (female sex organs that hold eggs).
  • Problems with hormones are secreted by the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland (areas in the brain that make hormones involved in menstruation.
  • Poorly formed reproductive organs.
  • In many cases, the cause of primary amenorrhea is not known.
Common causes of secondary amenorrhea are
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • No longer taking birth control pills.
  • Menopause
  • Some birth control methods, such as Depo Provera.
Other causes of secondary amenorrhea include
  • Stress
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Depression
  • Certain drugs/medications.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Over-exercising.
  • Ongoing illness.
  • Sudden weight gain or being very overweight (obesity).
  • Problems with hormone-making glands, including the thyroid (rare).
  • Tumors on the ovaries (rare).
  • Earlier uterine surgery with scarring.
  • A woman who has had her uterus or ovaries removed will also stop menstruating
How can I know if I have amenorrhea?

If you miss your period, contact your healthcare provider. First, he or she will want to know if your period has stopped because of a normal condition such as pregnancy or menopause. (Most women go through menopause in their early 50s.) You will be given a physical and pelvic exam and will be asked about your medical history. You will also be asked to describe your symptoms. A sample of blood and urine may be taken for testing.

In some cases, finding the cause of amenorrhea can be difficult. You can help your healthcare provider by keeping a record of changes in your menstrual cycle with a menstrual calendar. Note how long your periods last and when you had your last period. Also, report any drugs you are taking and changes in your diet and/or exercise program. You should also report any emotional problems you are having, including stress.