Amenorrhea is the fancy word for the absence of periods and can happen for lots of different reasons, both physical and psychological.
Amenorrhea can be described as primary or secondary, depending on what’s happening. Primary amenorrhea is a delayed period, when your first period (also known as menarche) doesn’t occur during puberty. Remember that, although a girl’s first period normally occurs around the age of 12, it can also occur as early as 10 or as late as 16.
Primary amenorrhea can be caused when hormones such as progesterone, oestrogens and androgens are not being produced or if there are cysts on the ovaries. It can also be caused by a congenital disorder that prevents the uterus and vagina from developing normally or when the hymen has no perforation and is very closed, making it difficult for the menstrual flow to escape.Primary and Secondary Amenorrhea
When primary amenorrhea is caused by a lack of hormone production, it can be accompanied by a delay in the appearance of secondary sex characteristics: no pubic or underarm hair, not much breast development and no development of the female body shape (waist, hips, etc.).
When you’ve been having normal, regular periods but then you have a delayed period, when you miss more than three in a row, this is called secondary amenorrhea.
Secondary amenorrhea can be caused by lots of things.
- First of all, remember that for the first two or three years after your first period, it’s normal for girls to have irregular periods and even some cases of amenorrhea. In these cases of physiological amenorrhea, there’s no need to worry if your period is late and you can simply wait for your periods to come back on their own, without any treatment.
- Secondly, if you’re in a sexual relationship and your period is late, you should always check whether pregnancy is the cause of the amenorrhea. The best way of doing this is to use a pregnancy test kit that you can get from the pharmacy.
- Thirdly, the most common cause of secondary amenorrhea is when there is an ovulation disorder, which is nothing to worry about.
Although less common than the ones above, here are some other possible causes of amenorrhea during your teenage years:
- Gynaecological conditions: such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Over-exercising or exercising too vigorously: many top young sportswomen have interrupted menstrual cycles
- Thyroid conditions: both an underactive thyroid, where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, and an overactive thyroid, where the thyroid gland releases too much thyroid hormone, can cause your periods to stop.
- Being very overweight or experiencing drastic weight loss: girls who are very overweight or who lose weight drastically often suffer from amenorrhea.
- Psychological disorders: such as anorexia and bulimia.
- Psychological conditions: such as stress or anxiety. Remember that sometimes anxiety itself, caused by thinking that you might be pregnant, can in turn cause a delayed period.
One of the things that young girls worry about most when suffering from amenorrhea is whether or not they should see their doctor. Our advice is that you shouldn’t be afraid to see your doctor whenever something is worrying you. Even if what’s happening to you is normal, it’s better to be reassured that everything is fine, than to keep worrying about something (for example, if your period is late) for months on end.