The majority of women get their periods every month. Though they can be annoying, this is a sign that your body is functioning properly and that your reproductive system is on the right track. However, many women experience unexplained interruptions in their menstrual cycle. If you haven't had your period in a while, you may have amenorrhea, a disorder of the menstrual cycle. Amenorrhea can signal underlying health problems and may be a clue to your fertility problems.
What is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea refers to the absence of your menstrual periods. It is fairly common in North America, affecting between 2% and 5% of the female population. Typically, women have one menstrual period every cycle. This usually occurs every 28 days or so.
Your period is caused by an interplay of various hormones in your body. During pregnancy or after menopause, you will lose your period, and this is a natural form of amenorrhea. However, some women will lose their periods as a result of various other factors.
Types of Amenorrhea
There are two main types of amenorrhea:
A girl who has not gotten her period by the age of 16 is referred to as having primary amenorrhea. Most girls have typically undergone puberty by this time, and their hormones have begin to produce a monthly period.
Girls with primary amenorrhea do not have enough hormones in their body to trigger menstruation. Primary amenorrhea is common among thin or athletic girls who do not have enough body fat to trigger estrogen and other sex hormones.
Secondary amenorrhea occurs after you have had a normal period for some time, but then begin to go without a period for more than three months. It is typically the result of a drop in hormone levels or an underlying reproductive complication.
Causes of Amenorrhea
If you are experiencing amenorrhea, it is probably because certain factors are causing an imbalance in your hormone levels. Without the appropriate levels of sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, ovulation will not be triggered and menstruation will not occur. A number of factors can contribute to these hormonal imbalances:
- disorders of the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, or ovaries
- extreme weight loss or weight gain
- poor nutrition
- eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia