Straight, No Chaser: So… You Skipped Your Period? Let’s Discuss Secondary Amenorrhea
It happens all the time, but one thing that makes both men and women anxious is a missed menstrual period. Everyone’s always worried about being pregnant (and you should be).
While a missed menstrual period is the defining feature of early pregnancy, it can be due to a number of other factors and conditions.
Skipped periods are a fact of life. Doctors use the term amenorrhea—primary and secondary amenorrhea—to describe the absence of menstruation.
Primary amenorrhea, which is very rare, is when a female has not yet started her monthly periods, though she is older than age 15 and has otherwise completed puberty. We discuss primary amenorrhea over at www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com.
Secondary amenorrhea, which is much more common, is the absence of periods in a previously menstruating woman. Periods may be irregular, with the woman skipping periods for the first few years after she begins menstruating and during perimenopause (the time preceding menopause). However, when the lapse in regular periods last for over six months, it is called secondary amenorrhea. (This designation does not pertain to post-menopausal, pregnant or breast-feeding women.)
Let’s jump right into the risk factors and causes. There are many, and these conditions tend interfere with the balance and levels of the body’s sex hormones.
You are more likely to have amenorrhea when the following factors are present:
- Excessive exercise
- Significant, sudden weight loss (e.g., gastric bypass, extreme diets)
- Severe anxiety or emotional distress
- Very low body fat (less than 15% – 17%)
Other possible causes include the following:
- Brain tumors (e.g., pituitary tumors)
- Cancer/chemotherapy treatment
- Dilatation and curettage (D&C)
- Drugs used to treat schizophrenia or psychosis
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Reduced function of the ovaries
- Severe pelvic infections
- Use of hormone shots (e.g., Depo-provera) and the six-month period after cessation of these shots
Of course, you’re going to get evaluated, and the first question will be whether or not you are pregnant. The good news is for secondary amenorrhea (and even more so for skipped periods), simply addressing the underlying cause resolves the situation in most cases. However, don’t take it lightly. Get evaluated if you have concerns. Of course, you can feel free to contact your SMA expert consultant with any questions you have.
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