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Amenorrhea: 4 Potential Causes of Missing Periods

Amenorrhea: 4 Potential Causes of Missing Periods

Missed periods might make you feel appreciative, but they’re rarely a good sign for your health. Your body is designed to have regular periods; when you don’t get them, it can indicate potential problems with your health.

Sometimes, the reasons why you’re not getting your period are simple; if you’re on birth control or breastfeeding, it may cause you to stop getting your periods. But other times, the reasons are less clear. Dr. Edward J. Ramirez of The Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IVF explains four of the potential causes of missed periods.

What is amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is the medical term for missing periods. There are two different types of amenorrhea, and it’s important to know which type you have.

Primary amenorrhea

Primary amenorrhea refers to the total absence of periods by the age of 15 or 16 or within 5 years of the onset of puberty. This is a less common type of amenorrhea.

Secondary amenorrhea

Secondary amenorrhea is much more common It’s estimated to affect 3-5% of women at some point in their lives.

Secondary amenorrhea refers to women who once got periods, but something has caused them to skip their period for more than 3 cycles.

Causes of amenorrhea

In addition to birth control and breastfeeding, other factors can cause you to skip your periods. These include the following:

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of skipping periods. It’s estimated that at least 6-8% of women have PCOS, although it may be underdiagnosed. Some of the symptoms that characterize PCOS, in addition to irregular periods, include the following:

It is not always necessary to have all of these symptoms to get a PCOS diagnosis. You can be thin and still have polycystic ovaries, which are diagnosed by ultrasound.


Stress is a fact of modern life, but it can take a major toll on your health. People with stress-related amenorrhea have altered hormone levels that interfere with ovulation. You may not realize how many hormones have to align with one another to allow your body to maintain ovulation each month.

Nutritional deficiencies

Your diet may cause difficulties with your menstrual cycle. If you don’t get all the nutrients your body needs, it might not allow your body to ovulate. This isn’t to say that you should just pop a multivitamin and consider it good; you should strive to get nutrients from a wide variety of foods. If you need help, we can refer you to a nutritionist.

Excessive exercise or low body weight

The endless pursuit of thinness can have a negative effect on your ability to ovulate. If you are exercising excessively or maintaining a low body weight, it can actually cause you to stop ovulating. Your periods will eventually stop altogether. Fortunately, you can usually restore ovulation by following a more moderate exercise routine or by gaining a little weight.

If you aren’t getting your periods, you should get it checked out. We have medications we can prescribe to help if you have PCOS, and we can help with stress management techniques. Contact Dr. Edward J. Ramirez at The Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IVF in Monterey, California, by calling or requesting an appointment online.

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