Menstruation, or a menstrual period, refers to the monthly process in which the uterus sheds blood and tissue because pregnancy did not occur.
Not having or missing a menstrual period is called amenorrhea. This condition is divided into 2 types:
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The most common cause of secondary amenorrhea is pregnancy. In non-pregnant women, it may be due to a variety of factors.
Factors that may increase the risk of amenorrhea include:
The main symptom for primary amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual period in a female by age 16 or older. The main symptom for secondary amenorrhea is 3 or more missed periods in a row in a woman who has previously had menstrual periods.
Call your doctor if you:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on what is causing amennorhea. Examples include:
Amenorrhea may or may not be preventable, depending on the cause. Follow these general guidelines to prevent amenorrhea:
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Amenorrhea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 10, 2014. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Amenorrhea. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea.html. Updated February 2014. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Current evaluation of amenorrhea. American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Educational_Bulletins/Current_evaluation(1).pdf. Published 2008. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD Last Updated: 8/8/2014