Three Months Without A Period May Not Be Normal

Amenorrhea can be natural part of woman's life, but should never be ignored

DAYTON, Ohio (October 12, 2018) – A monthly menstrual cycle can be an unpleasant part of female life, but its regular visit plays an important role in a woman's overall health.

There are times when a normal menstrual cycle may cease to happen in a woman's life. In some cases – such as pregnancy or the onset of perimenopause – it can be a natural part of life stages. Or there may be times in a woman's life where her periods are deliberately stopped using medications under a physician's supervision. While this is acceptable and healthy, it is not normal for a period to stop on its own without a reasonable explanation. It can signal something more serious when a woman fails to have a period over a three month period.

The condition, known as amenorrhea, can happen in two different phases. Primary amenorrhea refers to an adolescent who doesn't begin menstruating during puberty. This type of amenorrhea is rare in the United States.

Secondary amenorrhea, on the other hand, affects about 4 percent of women during their lifetime. This type of amenorrhea is when a woman's period starts, but then stops. In most cases, this type of amenorrhea comes through natural changes in a woman's body such as pregnancy or lactation. However, there are cases when it signals something more is going on inside her body.

“The impact amenorrhea has on a woman's health is dependent on the root cause of it,” said Jennifer Schneidler, MD, an OB/Gyn physician with Magnolia Women's Health. “Amenorrhea is not a disease itself but rather a sign of a health problem, and can happen for many reasons.”

Because amenorrhea is associated with health conditions that are also linked to infertility, leading health organizations have made it an important part of their ongoing research, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It's link to infertility is also a reason women shouldn't take amenorrhea lightly and should understand when it's important to consult with their physician, said Dr. Schneidler, who practices with Premier Physician Network.

The NIH details out the different causes for both primary and secondary amenorrhea reinforcing the importance of diagnosing it early.

Genetic abnormalities – Chromosomal or genetic abnormalities can cause the ovaries to stop functioning. Various abnormalities – including those characterized by high levels of testosterone – can delay or disrupt a girl's menstruation.

Hormonal dysfunction – Problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland in the brain can cause an imbalance in hormones that prevent a period from starting. Likewise, conditions such as eating disorders, excessive exercise and extreme physical or psychological stress can disrupt hormone function.

Reproductive problems – Amenorrhea can happen when a woman's reproductive organs are not functioning properly due to a blockage in their passageways.

Birth control – Certain birth control pills, injectable contraceptives and hormonal intrauterine devices can cause amenorrhea. It can often take several months after ceasing birth control for a woman to regain regular periods.

Certain medication – Some medicines that treat conditions such as depression and high blood pressure can increase levels of hormones that prevent ovulation and a menstrual cycle.

Scar tissue – Scar tissue can often build up in a woman's uterus following procedures such as a dilation and curettage may prohibit regular menstrual cycles.

Dr. Schneidler said girls who are 15 years of age and have had no signs of puberty, or 17-year-olds who have signs of puberty but no period, should consult with their physician. Women who have started their period, but then do not experience one for at least three months, should also be evaluated.

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.