Your time of the month has come and gone with no signs of a visit from good old Aunt Flo. If you’ve already ruled out pregnancy, you’re probably wondering what the deal is. Before you have a full-blown freak-out, know that plenty of girls experience missed periods—scientifically known as amenorrhea—for a variety of reasons.
The most important thing is to figure out what the cause is behind your missed menstruation and to get your body back on track as soon as possible. We talked to an expert, to get the scoop. Here are some of the most common reasons why young people tend to miss their periods.
1. Increased Stress
If you have been going through a stressful few weeks (maybe you just started a new job or internship) and your period seems to have disappeared, it could be due to a temporary bout of increased stress. One young person knows all too well how stress can affect the regularity of menstruation. She explains, “I get on a roll with taking a lot of classes and planning the future that it wears me out sometimes. I’ve been doing full semesters year-round to finish my degree. and I have trouble relaxing, so my period will be delayed occasionally. It makes me nervous when that happens, especially if I just spent some ‘quality time’ with a guy, so I’ve started keeping track of my periods. I think my body has gotten used to my crazy schedule, so my periods are fairly regular now.”
Our expert says, “Stress hormones, like cortisol, are overproduced, and this keeps the brain from producing the necessary hormones, making it so ovulation and the subsequent production of estrogens and progesterones do not occur.” Basically, without the appropriate hormones, no menstruation will occur.
Once stress levels are back to normal, menstruation usually will return relatively quickly, either delayed by a couple of weeks or an entire cycle. The expert has seen many cases where patients report getting their menses back as soon as the main stressor is lessened. And don’t let the stress of not getting your period stress you out even more!
2. Excessive Weight Loss
Losing too much weight for your body type can cause you to miss your period. How much is too much weight? Our expert explains, “Weight loss of more than 10% of ideal body weight can cause amenorrhea.” So if your ideal body weight is 130 kgs, losing 13 Kgs could put you at risk for missing your period.
A person’s ideal body weight depends on a multitude of factors including age, height, skeletal structure, and metabolic rate. It sounds complicated because it is.
Our Expert also warns that women tend to be nutritionally deficient if they are losing too much weight. She explains, “When a woman is at a nutritional deficit, she generally has a low fat intake, which can lead to decreased body fat mass, resulting in amenorrhea.”
It truly depends on the individual when it comes to menses returning. The best way to determine your unique situation is to seek a doctor’s opinion. However, Our expert does emphasize that women are more likely to lose menses with quicker weight loss than weight loss that takes place over a longer period of time.
3. Excessive Weight Gain
In the same way that excessive weight loss causes amenorrhea, so can excessive weight gain. Our expert explains, “Too much weight gain can cause excess oestrogen storage in fatty tissues which then gets partially converted by the body to androgens which can cause thinning of the uterine lining and decreased ovulation.” Additional side effects of excessive weight gain include acne, increased facial and body hair, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The easiest way to bring back your menstrual cycle is to simply lose any excess weight, so that you reach your ideal weight. Meeting with a nutritionist or dietician would be ideal to ensure that you are going about the weight loss in as healthy a way as possible.
Again, there is no exact formula as to when your period will return so the best thing to do is to seek your doctor’s professional opinion based on your particular situation.
An excessive increase in exercise typically has a similar effect on your menstrual cycle as excessive weight loss. This is because over-exercising usually is one of the causes behind weight loss of more than 10% of an individual’s ideal body weight. Our expert labels the effects of increased exercise and excessive weight loss as the “female athletic triad,” which consists of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis/osteopenia.
There are certain kinds of exercise that increase the risk of not getting your period. Women who participate in long distance running, dancing and gymnastics tend to experience what is known as athletic amenorrhea. Our expert explains, “Exercises that really emphasize body type and small size are known to cause amenorrhea. Crew has also been known to be a problem, but really any exercise that gets a woman’s body mass down more than 10% is an issue.”
6. Chronic Illness
Women with certain chronic illnesses are more likely to experience irregular or missed menstrual periods due to low weight or a flare in illness. Our expert shares that diseases such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, lupus, cystic fibrosis, sickle disease, and certain types of cancer are likely to affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.
If you have irregular periods or just out of the blue stopped getting it and are unsure of the cause, definitely make an appointment to see your doctor. In fact, even if you think you know the cause, make an appointment because you could be experiencing other serious side effects like decreased bone density. Your regular doctor and your gynecologist are both trusted options