Any disruptions or irregularities in menstruation or the ovulation cycle can signify an underlying fertility problem. This is what makes being aware of the patterns of your menstrual cycle so important. Of the various conditions that may affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, amenorrhea represents one of the most common ones that affect menstruation.
What is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is the term used to describe the absence of a menstrual period. There are two main types of amenorrhea.
Primary amenorrhea occurs when a woman has not begun menstruation by the age of 16 as a result of hormone deficiency. This is particularly common among women who do not have enough body fat to trigger the production of estrogen and other sex hormones.
Secondary amenorrhea develops when a woman has had otherwise normal periods for a long time, and then begins to have no menstrual period for more than three months. This is usually as a result of a drop in hormone levels or other complications affecting the reproductive system.
When there are insufficient levels of sex hormones within the reproductive system, ovulation cannot be triggered and menstruation will not take place. Factors that may contribute to hormonal imbalance include pituitary gland, hypothalamus and ovary disorders, weight loss or weight gain, poor diet, eating disorders, stress and over exercising.
Symptoms of Amenorrhea
Some of the common physical symptoms associated with amenorrhea include the following:
- increased facial hair
- deepened voice
- decreased breast size
- breast secretions that are milky white
- lowered sex drive
- vision changes
In addition, amenorrhea has been associated with fertility complications such as:
- anovulation (a lack of ovulation)
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- hirsutism (excessive or increased hair growth)
- uterine fibroids
Once diagnosed with amenorrhea, treatment options may include the following:
- lifestyle changes involving weight, physical activity or stress
- oral contraceptives
- hormone replacement therapy
- eating disorder counseling
- dietary changes
Speak to your health care provider or a fertility specialist for more information about infertility treatment options if you are experiencing the symptoms of amenorrhea.