Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation in women. Amenorrhea is normal at certain points in a woman's life, such as before puberty, after menopause, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. In some cases, amenorrhea is abnormal and could signal another health problem.
Amenorrhea can be primary or secondary. When menstruation never occurs, it is considered to be primary amenorrhea. If menstruation was present and then goes away, it is considered to be secondary amenorrhea.
Causes and triggers
The most common cause of amenorrhea is pregnancy. Menstruation is regulated by several hormones in the body. A disturbance of these hormones can lead to a cessation of menstruation. There are many possible causes, including the following:
- The use of certain medications:
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Certain chemotherapies
- Corticosteroids (e.g., a cortisone derivative that is taken orally)
- Certain diseases:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- A brain tumour
- Thyroid gland dysfunction
- Certain lifestyle habits:
- Prolonged periods of high stress
- Significant weight loss or being underweight
- Excessive exercise
- Certain malformations or genetic anomalies
Amenorrhea is treated by eliminating the cause when possible. Treatment depends on the cause but may include the following:
- Certain medications, such as hormones
- Lifestyle changes
If you are found to have low estrogen levels, certain medications may be prescribed to ensure bone health (e.g., calcium and vitamin D).
When should I see a health care professional?
Speak with your health care provider in the following cases:
- You haven't had your first period and you are:
- Aged 15 or older
- Aged 13 or older and present no signs of puberty (e.g., hair growth and breast development)
- Your period has stopped for at least 3 menstrual cycles
If you are sexually active, you can take a pregnancy test.