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Amenorrhea

QUICK FACTS

What is it?

  • Amenorrhea is the loss or lack of menstrual periods.
  • Symptoms include missing or not starting menstrual periods.
  • Testing to understand causes is available.
  • Treatment includes lifestyle changes or medication.

What is amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is the loss or lack of menstrual periods. If a teenager does not have a menstrual period by age 16, it is called primary amenorrhea. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when a woman stops having periods for three or more months in a row after having regular periods in the past.

What are the symptoms of amenorrhea?

The main symptom of amenorrhea is missing or not starting the menstrual period. Depending on the cause of amenorrhea, other symptoms could include:

  • Headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Hair loss
  • Increased facial or body hair

What are the causes of amenorrhea?

Pregnancy is the most common cause of amenorrhea. However, there are other reasons women may stop having periods, including:

  • Breastfeeding (see also Lactational Amenorrhea Method).
  • Menopause.
  • Contraceptives that contain hormones.
  • Certain medications.
  • Lifestyle factors, such as stress, body weight (too high or too low), too little body fat, excessive physical activity.
  • Problems with hormone imbalance.
  • Problems with the female reproductive (sex) organs.

A teenager may not get her first period for several reasons, including:

  • Being significantly overweight or underweight.
  • Having female sex organs that did not mature normally.
  • Problems in the parts of the body that make hormones.

Are there tests for amenorrhea?

Missing periods may be a sign that something is not normal. It is important to ask a healthcare provider if you are concerned about missing one or more periods.

  • A healthcare provider can suggest tests to find the cause of amenorrhea. The first test is usually a urine pregnancy test.
  • Blood tests may be done to check hormone levels.
  • A computed tomograph (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head may be done to look for problems with the parts of the brain that help make hormones.
  • An ultrasound test may be done to look at the female sex organs.
  • A pelvic exam may be performed by a healthcare provider to check organs in the pelvis.

How is amenorrhea treated?

The type of treatment depends on the cause of amenorrhea. If weight, stress, or physical activity is causing the amenorrhea, lifestyle changes may help. Medications are often used to treat other causes of amenorrhea. Hormones, such as those found in birth control pills, may be used to protect the uterus when lifestyle factors cause amenorrhea. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

 
Content created by Office of Population Affairs
Content last reviewed on November 28, 2017