Dealing With Amenorrhea

Disclaimer – males, this post is probably completely irrelevant and uninteresting to you. Unless you have a sister or girlfriend experiencing something similar. In that case, read at your own discretion.

Last night, I got my first period. No, not for the first time ever. I’m 22. For the first time since September 2011 (that’s 2.5 years). If you remember my history, you’ll know that September 2011 is also the same month that I began to workout and change my eating habits… I had amenorrhea for 2.5 years.

Amenorrhea is defined as the absence of a period for 3 months or more in an otherwise reproductive female. It can be caused by a variety of issues, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, pituitary gland issues, hypo- or hyper-thyroidism, eating disorders, rapid weightloss, and more.

When I first lost my period, I attributed it to my weightloss. I was still overweight after the first 3 months, but I figured the weightloss was the cause. After 7-8 months, I asked my doctor and they basically said the same thing. “Amenorrhea is common in active females. Many professional athletes have it, it’s not too much of a worry.” I thought ‘hm, okay. Not having a period IS kind of nice… I won’t stress it.’ Until months became years.. In March/April 2013 I decided to finally get extensive tests done at a reproductive specialist to figure out what was up. I got my blood tested multiple times for several levels such as estradiol, FSH, LH, and estrogen. Everything normal. I got an ultrasound of my ovaries. Everything normal; ovaries were producing eggs but they just…weren’t doing anything with them. No cysts, no nothing. After a couple of months of tests and appointments, the doctor pretty much said it was because my body fat was too low (I WAS 11% BF at that point, so I’ll give her that…). She basically said “eat more” and left it at that. ‘Yeah thanks, lady.’ I didn’t agree; something was wrong…

My gynecologist recommended I start birth control to “regulate” my hormones and force the period. I refused. My thoughts were and still are… ‘Something is wrong though. I don’t want to just mask it with medicine. I can’t take medicine forever. It’s like sweeping dirt under a rug. I want to find the underlying issue.’ I also had a bad experience with birth control (pre-amenorrhea) and refused to take it again. So I left it at that.

This past October 2013, I decided I really should figure this out… It’d been morethan 2 years. I’d just moved, I’m in a new area, I’ll get a new gynecologist with a new opinion, yeah. She did more extensive tests. Bloodwork. Ultrasound. Same tests. Same results. But she also did a biopsy of my uterus lining because if a uterus goes so long without shedding
(aka a period), the cells can build up and lead to cancer. Nobody wants that… So she did a biopsy, which was THE most excruciating thing I’ve ever experienced… but much neeeded… Cutting the inside of my uterus and stealing a piece of it? Um… D; The results were useful; no cancer! But more importantly, she said my uterus lining was veryy veryyy thin. She could tell when she tried to retrieve a piece. And from the bloodwork, my estrogen was sort of low. So she believed the eggs were forming, but there was no uterus lining to be shed.

The gynecologist said I need to take a progesterone for 10 days to “kickstart” my period. I thought ‘no no no no no medicine’ and I hesitantly asked if I’d always need to take the medicine. She said no, with luck it would just need the 1 round of 10 days. So I tried it; she prescribed Medroxyprogesterone. Aaaandddd…nothing happened. I saw her again and she prescribed a second round of the pills, but I had to take it 2x for 5 days rather than 1x for 10 days. ANDDDD…nothing happened. So I went to see her again… She said her next and final idea was to first give me estrogen to prime my hormones, THEN “kickstart” the period with a progesterone. So she prescribed me 30 days of Premarin (an estrogen pill) and 10 days of Progesterone (a different version of the one I took 2 rounds of aleady). The 10 days of Progesterone were taken on days 20-30 of the Premarin.

I finished my 30 days on Thursday…..and nothing happened. I was telling my boyfriend on Saturday (2 days after) that I must be broken forever… But then, shortly after that at night, it happened. It arrived. :)

I spoke with my doctor. She suggested I continue taking birth control to regulate my period, but like said before, I try to avoid any medication as much as possible. So I will not continue to take it; we will hope my period comes regularly from now on. If not, I will contact her again. I will be updating as things progress.

I know that a lot of girls that are active and into fitness suffer from this. Especially if you are underweight or just very lean, it makes amenorrhea more common. I think the most frustrating aspect about my experience with it was that I lost my period when I was still overweight and only working out 1-3x times a week. Even after I built muscle and healthily added 25 pounds after my lowest weight and 11% BF, I still couldn’t manage to have a period! Frustrating frustrating frustrating. And it made no sense.

But if you’re going through something similar, I strongly encourage you to stay persistent. Even when all your resources seem depleted, keep trying things. I know there are also options available that I never tried, such as acupuncture or some natural treatments from a naturopath. Like I said, not having a period for such a long period of time can be very dangerous; it can cause changes in bone density and potentially be cancer-causing. No bueno. So just keep truckin.

 

 


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29 comments

  1. Taylor MarshallNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I lost my period in Oct 2011. I was working out 4-5 days a week and had lost about 10 lbs. I was never really super lean or anything. I started going to the doctor around Mar 2012. Since then I have seen multiple reproductive and endocrine specialists. All of my labs and ultrasounds were always normal, except my estrogen was always a little low. Like you, I went on multiple rounds of progesterone and then estrogen with progesterone. Nothing ever worked. They all told me that I was exercising to much, but I didn’t want to hear it. I started bulking, reduced my cardio,and switched to lifting heavy in Oct of last year. I got my period last month in Feb. and cried tears of joy. But nothing came this month, so I was super disappointed. I’m hoping that my body just needs more time to re-regulate. I’ve gained about 12 lbs since bulking, and I’m so hesitant to cut because I want my period back! Thanks for sharing your story. It helps to know that I am not alone!

  2. Jessi MoniqueNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Kim. Like you (and Taylor), it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had my period naturally. Probably something like 2.5 years as well. I started out weighing 125lbs at 5″4′ and dropped down to 99lbs at one point. I’ve gradually started gaining a little bit more weight back but still haven’t seen our lady friend. A couple months into my ED when I noticed what was going on, but of course didn’t want to see it, I went to a doctor as well. Same story, perfect lab results, hormone/BC prescriptions and advice to raise my BF%. Wasn’t happening. I finally ended up agreeing to the progesterone because gaining weight was out of the question. A couple cycles of it and no success. The only thing that worked was the BC (can’t think of the brand name to save my life). The only problem(s) with that is that it only worked for the one month I took it, meaning if I wanted a consistent period (which I really don’t, lol – but I know I need it), I would have to continue taking the pills; eww. I’ve tried the BC again since then and the same thing. Currently still don’t have a period but now I’m working on the weight gain to try to induce it naturally. We’ll see how that goes. At this point, like you, I am afraid that I am broken forever. It is scary because I really want to have kids within the next few years, which is why BC just is not a solution. Anyways, to shorten my long story, if I’m still in the same situation by August of this year (once I graduate, yay!) then I will be more diligent on solving this issue. I really appreciate knowing that I’m not unique in this experience, it’s not something people take the time to share, whether it is due to fear or embarrassment.

    • KimNo Gravatar says:

      I sympathize so much! You’re right in saying that our situations are all basically identical. It’s frustrating… As soon as I stopped taking the medicine, I lost my period. I don’t continue the pills simply because it made me feel AWFUL. Not pleasant at all… My mother and gynecologist all recommend I take it so as to ensure I can get pregnant later in life but…it’s such a tough decision when the side effects suck so much.

      I wish people talked about it more because it is so so so common amongst female athletes. I hope you can sort your issue out soon; just know you’re not alone in this.

  3. JessicaNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you so so much for this post I am on a weightloss journey myself and after about 3 months of hardcore workout and a restrictive diet I have too lost my period. I was really scared. Thank you again it really helps me to read your story and to know that someone has gone through this and over came this situation.

      • KimNo Gravatar says:

        Yes! :) I’ve now been taking birth control for 2 years. It never came naturally. So the birth control regulates my hormones, provides me with estrogen, etc, in order to keep everything healthy and prevent serious concerns like cancer.

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