Posts Tagged ‘anorexia nervosa’

Amenorrhea – missed periods

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

There can be many reasons why a woman might not get her period. For women who are sexually active and in their 20s or 30s, pregnancy is the first thing that pops to mind. If you’re in your 40s or 50s, it could be the beginning of the transition leading to menopause, or perimenopause. Whatever the reason, it’s important to find out why.

Extreme exercise can be a cause. Did you know that between 5% and 25% of female athletes work out so hard that they stop getting their periods? This is called exercise-induced amenorrhea. I had two friends, both avid runners, who were unable to conceive while they were in training and running marathons. Their intense exercise altered the manufacturing and releasing of reproductive hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. While still remaining active, my friends had to significantly dial back their exercise routines before they were able to have children. But both of them went on to have kids.

Another substantial body stressor that can affect the operation of reproductive hormones is a severely changed eating pattern. Women with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa are greatly altering their hormonal balance by depriving their body of nutrition. This can shut down a normal reproductive cycle.

Women who breastfeed often do not see the return of a normal period for many months. If that happens to you, don’t feel like you’re home-free in the contraception department. This lack of a period does not necessarily mean you’re not ovulating and it is possible to get pregnant during this time.

Medical conditions like problems with your uterus, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)thyroid conditions or pituitary gland disorders, or problems with the hypothalamus can cause amenorrhea. Women who are extremely overweight or obese can lose their period.

If you miss your period for an extended period of time and aren’t sure why, check into it with your health care provider.

Underweight and infertile

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

We as a nation seem to be getting fatter by the minute.  We’re always reading about obesity and the problems it causes, of which there are many.  But some women, whether because they pay too much attention to the fashion police or they have too much stress or other issues in their lives, are really, really thin.  Some women are just tiny, but some have an eating disorder that makes and keeps them thin.  Anorexia and bulimia are two eating disorders that wreak havoc with your body.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder making a person incapable of maintaining a minimum body weight considered healthy for a person’s height and age.  Intense fear of gaining weight causes severe dieting and/or excessive exercising.  Bulimia is a similar disorder but often consists of binge eating and then vomiting, perhaps combined with laxative use, to prevent weight gain.  Among other health issues, both of these conditions can cause infertility.

Women need to have a certain amount of body fat in order to menstruate, conceive and carry a baby.  If a woman’s body fat reserves drop too low, her body starts to protect itself and she may stop menstruating, since this is a process that is not vital to her survival.  This can prevent her from conceiving.  (A bulimic woman may actually carry a little more weight and therefore may continue to menstruate.  But the process of binge eating and vomiting may be too harsh on her body to sustain a pregnancy if one is conceived.)

And women aren’t the only ones with eating problems that can affect pregnancy. Men who are anorexic (oh yeah, we’re not the only ones) and have a very low body fat ratio may have a significant drop in sperm production, also hampering the ability to conceive.

If you are hoping to conceive but haven’t been able to yet, consider analyzing your body weight and eating patterns.  Look at it from different perspectives.  If either you or your partner is particularly thin, consider altering your diet and gaining some weight.  Talk with your provider about how to reach and maintain a healthy weight.