If you have ever suffered from absent or irregular periods – also known as Amenorrhea – you know how frustrating it can be. Without a ‘normal’ 28-35 day menstrual cycle, it can be more difficult to track and pinpoint ovulation, making it especially concerning for those who are trying to conceive. If you have amenorrhea, you may also be wondering if it is even possible to get pregnant. The short answer is yes, but it can depend on the cause of your amenorrhea and your individual fertility. Let’s dig in.
What Is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is when a person with ovaries misses one or more menstrual periods. This reproductive health condition can occur due to hormonal imbalances, structural issues within the reproductive system, lifestyle factors, and more. The most common symptom of amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation or multiple skipped periods, but other symptoms may include:
- Hot flashes
- Mood changes
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face and body)
- Vaginal dryness
There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea is when a person has never had a menstrual period before, while secondary amenorrhea is when a person has had periods in the past but has stopped having them.
What Causes Amenorrhea?
There are several possible causes of primary amenorrhea, including:
- Hormonal imbalances: The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones produced by the ovaries and the pituitary gland. If there is a problem with the production or regulation of these hormones, it can cause primary amenorrhea.
- Structural abnormalities: Primary amenorrhea can also be caused by structural abnormalities of the reproductive system, such as an absent or small uterus, or abnormalities of the cervix or vagina.
- Genetics: Some women may be born with conditions that affect their reproductive system, such as Turner syndrome or Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH).
- Lifestyle factors: Extreme weight loss, eating disorders, and intense exercise can all disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause primary amenorrhea.
- Psychological stress: Severe emotional stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause primary amenorrhea.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a condition that affects the hormone levels in the body, causing some women not to have a menstrual period at all.
On the other hand, some possible reasons why you may cease to have a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle include:
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy is the most common cause of secondary amenorrhea.
- Hormonal imbalances: The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones produced by the ovaries and the pituitary gland. If there is a problem with the production or regulation of these hormones, it can cause a type of secondary amenorrhea referred to as hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA).
- Lifestyle factors: HA can also be caused by lifestyle factors such as extreme weight loss, eating disorders, and intense exercise.
- Structural abnormalities: Secondary amenorrhea can also be caused by structural abnormalities in the reproductive system, such as uterine fibroids, scar tissue, or congenital abnormalities.
- Medications: Some medications, such as certain types of birth control pills and antidepressants, can cause secondary amenorrhea.
- Psychological stress: Severe emotional stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause secondary amenorrhea.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a hormonal condition that can cause irregular or absent periods.
When you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to remember that you can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating. So if you haven’t had a menstrual period in more than three months (or ever) be sure to consult with your healthcare provider — they can help determine the cause of your amenorrhea and discuss potential treatment options with you.
Can You Get Pregnant With Amenorrhea?
Thankfully, there are many different treatment options for amenorrhea, depending on the root cause. While hormonal birth control is usually the go-to solution for those looking to avoid pregnancy, if you’re trying to get pregnant treatment may include medications to stimulate ovulation, correct hormonal imbalances, or address any underlying causes such as stress or eating disorders. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct problems within the reproductive system.
For some, there are also lifestyle changes that can help reverse amenorrhea, including eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, reducing stress levels, practicing mindfulness, avoiding rigorous exercise, seeking counseling, and more.
If you are suffering from amenorrhea and trying to conceive (or even if you’re not), it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can help determine the cause of your amenorrhea and discuss diagnostic testing and potential treatment options for regulating your menstrual cycle and growing your family. In the meantime, taking care of your overall health through real, whole foods and gentle exercise can also improve your chances of getting pregnant. Remember, everyone’s journey is different, and advocating for yourself is the first step to getting to the bottom of your irregular or absent periods and continuing on the road to parenthood. You’ve got this!
Taneia Surles is an Alabama-based freelance health and wellness writer and the founder of Content By Taneia, LLC. She holds a Master's degree in Public Health with a Health Behavior concentration and specializes in health and wellness, productivity, education, entrepreneurship, and true crime content.