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.