My period has stopped why? You can’t find anything wrong, but Amenorr… what? Your doctor says, “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea” and you think, “But I thought eating healthy and exercising were good for my health? My period is absent… What do I do now?” Options from your doctor’s perspective are birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy to try to restart menstruation and ovulation. Yet you’re not sure you want any of that. There may be few things more challenging than not having a period when you wish to have healthy fertility or to get pregnant and become a mother one day. Though for many of you who’ve read this far, this is a reality. So, what do you do next? An important first step is to learn and address why Hypothalamic Amenorrhea has happened.
Defining Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
The word amenorrhea is the clinical term for an absent period or menstruation. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea or HA is a form of secondary amenorrhea and a fertility health issue involving dysfunction of the hypothalamus – a region at the brain’s center instrumental in the release of the hormones necessary to menstruate and ovulate – that causes menstruation (a period) to stop for several months (at least 3 consecutive cycles or, some say, 6 consecutive months) often as a result of periods of extreme physical or emotional stress, exercising too much and/or not eating enough.
Common Causes of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
For healthy women in their fertile years who have been menstruating regularly, whose periods just stop, it is time to think about if any of the following common causes could be contributing:
- high levels of extreme stress (physical or emotional)
- excessive exercising
- extreme weight loss or low BMI
- not having enough body fat
- stopping birth control
- disordered eating (eating disorders or drastic dietary changes)
- eating too little or an unbalanced diet
These causes also apply to teen girls who have yet to menstruate by the age of 14/15, yet teens need to work with a healthcare provider who will likely evaluate physical development and social/emotional health (particularly related to food and body image).
Rethink Your Diet and Lifestyle, Restart Your Period
Please don’t stop exercising or revert back to the Standard American Diet, which is too low in fruits and vegetables! What is important is to find a healthy form of exercise for fertility that also meets your psychological needs/connection to exercise and to ensure your Fertility Diet is well balanced.
Focus on actively recovering
Active recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea means first focusing on the following:
- changing your exercise routine or cutting back on workouts
- gaining weight
- eating more healthy whole foods and healthy fats
- building your stress-management tool kit
- relaxing without feeling guilty
It is only then that herbs and natural therapies known to promote a healthy menstrual cycle can be supportive.
I know what some of you may be thinking, “Stop exercising so much? Gain weight? Eat more fat? No, I can’t do that. Isn’t that counterproductive to all the hard work I’ve done to get this far?” The answers are Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes you can and No!
1. Too much exercise often equates to too little body fat for healthy cholesterol production and likewise healthy hormone production. Women who are too thin from over-exercising often experience irregular menstrual cycles and problems with ovulation as a result of reduced estrogen stores.
2. Regular strenuous workouts can prevent the body from producing healthy amounts of progesterone.
3. Underweight women may not have a menstrual cycle or ovulate, or have enough body fat to properly produce hormones and keep them balanced.
4. Eating healthy fats and having healthy amounts of body fat is necessary for fertility. Herbalist Dalene Barton explains it best, “Body fat cells, called adipocytes, produce estrogen. Estrogens are primary female reproductive messengers. Estrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle. Women who do not have adequate amounts of body fat may have menstrual cycle irregularities, anovulation, and infertility problems.”
5. If you’ve made such dramatic diet and lifestyle changes that your period has stopped, all of your hard work was counterproductive to having optimal fertility health.
Balance is Key!
You are unique, as is your fertility health. A healthy form of exercise that meets your physical and psychological needs may be different than what another woman chooses. It may take more or less effort to eat a balanced Fertility Diet than it does for another. Ultimately, it will be best to educate yourself as much as you can and then try a few things to (hopefully) quickly find what works best for your needs.
A final note, if hypothalamic amenorrhea is accompanied by another fertility health issue, working with a practitioner or herbalist to create a program to address this issue is going to be the best first step. Such a program will also include healthy diet and lifestyle tips!
- Briden, L. (July 15, 2016). Fertility Friday Podcast 086 | Hypothalamic Amenorrhea | Period Repair Manual | Healthy Hormones | Dr. Lara Briden. Retrieved from: http://fertilityfriday.com/lara-briden/
- Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.shadygrovefertility.com/diagnosing-infertility/infertility-causes/female-infertility-causes/hypothalamic-amenorrhea
- What causes amenorrhea? (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/amenorrhea/conditioninfo/Pages/causes.aspx#primary