Definition

Amenorrhea is when a woman does not have a menstrual period or they have stopped. It is also called absent periods.

Menstrual Flow
Menstrual Flow

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Causes

Hormones often cause this problem. They start changes in the body that result in a period. They may be lowered by:

  • Poor habits, such as lack of nutrition, too much physical activity, too much weight loss, or a lot of stress
  • Health problems, such as polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Delayed puberty
  • Birth defects

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in high level athletes, such as long distance runners. Faulty genes may also raise the risk in some women.

Symptoms

Primary amenorrhea is when the first period has not happened in a young woman who is 15 years of age or older. Secondary is when a woman with regular periods has not had a period in 3 months in a row or a woman with irregular periods has not had a period in 6 months in a row.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your history of periods. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

More testing will need to be done to find the cause of the amenorrhea.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause. It may be treated by things like:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising less often
  • Managing health problems
  • Lowering stress
  • Correcting birth defects with surgery

Prevention

Female athletes can lower the risk by staying at a healthy weight by eating foods that support their level of training.

RESOURCES:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

Women's Health—Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
https://sogc.org

REFERENCES:

Amenorrhea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/amenorrhea. Updated January 16, 2018. Accessed January 17, 2020.

Amenorrhea. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea.html. Updated May 24, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2020.

Azurah AG, Zainuddin AA, et al. Diagnostic pitfalls in the evaluation and management of amenorrhea in adolescents. J Reprod Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;58(708):324-36.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 1/17/2020