Missed Period? Learn the Common Causes.
If you’ve ever missed a period, or more than one, you’ve experienced amenorrhea. Amenorrhea simply means the absence of menstruation. The most common cause of amenorrhea is pregnancy – but it’s far from the only one.
Missed periods can indicate hormonal imbalances, structural reproductive problems, or even a reaction to certain medications or lifestyle factors. The first logical step would be to take a pregnancy test. If the result is positive – you should follow up with an obstetrician. If it’s negative, and you’ve missed three or more periods, it’s time to call your doctor to investigate the cause – and possible treatments.
So, if you’re not pregnant, what could be leading to your missed periods? Here are some of the most common causes:
- Natural amenorrhea – In addition to pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause are two natural biological reasons why you may not be having regular periods.
- Birth control pills, injections, implants or hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) – In some cases, contraceptives can regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. But, in other cases, women using – or stopping – hormonal contraceptives may experience one or more missed periods.
- Medications – Are you taking prescription drugs for a psychological condition, allergy or high blood pressure? Some of these can lead to amenorrhea, so talk to your prescribing physician or pharmacist about possible side effects. If you’re undergoing – or have recently undergone – chemotherapy, amenorrhea is a fairly common side effect.
- Emotional/mental stress – An occasional missed period could be caused by something as simple as stress. If you’ve been dealing with higher-than-normal levels of stress at work, school or home, and you’ve missed a period or two, you can expect your normal cycle to resume when that stress decreases. Excessive stress can temporarily alter the function of your hypothalamus – an area of the brain that helps regulate hormone production – pausing ovulation and menstruation.
- Excessive exercise – If you’re rigorously training for a marathon, triathlon or other sport that requires high energy expenditure, you may miss a period (or a few).
- Low body weight – If you’re underweight for your height, especially if you’ve lost a lot of weight due to excessive exercise or dieting, illness or an eating disorder – you may experience irregular periods or amenorrhea.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – This common hormonal imbalance is characterized by high levels of androgens and insulin. Androgens are known as “male hormones,” although all women produce them in small amounts. Insulin regulates blood sugar. An imbalance can cause missed or irregular periods, weight gain, excessive hair growth, acne and other symptoms in women of reproductive age.
- Other hormonal imbalances – An overactive or underactive thyroid gland, benign tumor on the pituitary gland or premature menopause can lead to amenorrhea.
- Structural issues – Though rare, vaginal or cervical obstructions, uterine scarring after surgery, or a lack of or underdeveloped reproductive organs (at birth) can cause missed or absent periods.
How can integrative medicine help?
Integrative medicine is all about restoring balance to the body and mind. Because amenorrhea can stem from a variety of medical, psychological and lifestyle issues – you may benefit from the integrative medicine philosophy of combining conventional medicine with complementary treatments (sometimes called alternative or naturopathic treatments) and lifestyle adjustments.
An integrative medicine provider can help you identify hormonal imbalances, structural issues, lifestyle factors and medical conditions that could be leading to your missed periods – and help you correct them. You may benefit from dietary changes, exercise modifications, therapy, relaxation and biofeedback techniques, supplements, hormonal treatments, acupuncture and/or prescription medication.
Holy Redeemer recently welcomed gynecologist and integrative specialist Dr. Dinah Gonzalez, a women’s health practitioner who believes in the holistic and personalized care that is the hallmark of integrative medicine. Dr. Gonzalez wants to educate and change the way women feel about their health and well-being. She partners with patients to create a well-rounded individualized treatment plan using a holistic patient-centered approach. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Gonzalez, call 215-544-5695.