No Periods After Stopping the Pill

When you've been on the birth control pill for some time, it can be difficult to know just what your period will be like once you go off this contraception. Although many women resume regular periods right away, others may have to wait months before they get their period again. Understandably, this can cause some anxiety. However, a lack of a period after stopping the birth control pill isn't always a problem.

The Pill and Delayed Periods

Too Much Exercise Can Cause Your Period To Stop

It is really quite common to have some delay before the resumption of normal periods after stopping the pill. We are not sure how much this delay has to do with the pill itself, and it seems likely that if it's prolonged (more than 6 months) in fact the pill was probably hiding a period irregularity, rather than being the cause.

If periods don't come back within a couple of months, its worth seeing your GP or gynaecologist. She will perform a few tests in order to check on your hormone levels. These tests include:

  • Progestagen challenge test: A 5-7 day course of progestagens (one of the normal hormones of the cycle), at the end of which you should have a period - this checks that your ovaries are producing adequate oestrogen (the predominant female hormone), both of which are needed to ovulate.
  • Ultrasound scan of the ovaries and hormone test: This helps to rule out common causes of failure to ovulate, such as polycystic ovaries.

If these are all O.K. and a blood screen for other hormone irregularities is clear, then its likely just to be 'one of those things'. However, there could be other underlying reasons for your menstrual irregularities.

Other Issues that Can Interrupt Menstruation

Besides the birth control pill and other forms of hormonal birth control, there are a number of other issues that could cause your menstrual period to arrive late. Ovulation and menstruation is a very delicate cycle, and can easily be disturbed by a number or factors.

Body Weight
Body weight plays a key role in determining when and how you will ovulate and menstruate. This is because fat cells in the body release estrogen, which help to regulate both ovulation and the monthly shedding of the endometrial lining. In order to maintain a regular menstrual cycle, most women need to have at least 22% body fat. Anything less or more than this level can have a negative impact on regular menstruation.

  • If You are Underweight: If you are underweight for your height, you could experience irregular menstruation or even complete amenorrhea (loss of menstruation). Women who are undernourished and underweight do not have enough body fat to produce the oestrogen needed to ovulate and menstruate. This is why many women who suffer from eating disorders often lose their periods completely. Be sure to speak with your health care provider if you are underweight and experiencing irregular menstrual periods.
  • If You are Overweight: If you are overweight you are also at risk for having irregular menstrual periods. This is because overweight women tend to have excess amounts of body fat. As a result, their bodies produce too much oestrogen, interfering with the regular process of ovulation and menstruation. If you are overweight and experiencing problems with your period, be sure to discuss it with your health care practitioner.

Stress

Severe emotional stress can also play a role in a late menstrual period. Studies have found that stress - whether it is caused by work, school, family issues, or relationship concerns - can directly affect centres in the brain responsible for controlling hormone release. Your brain must release certain hormones in order to trigger the process of ovulation and menstruation. But if you are very stressed or fatigued, this can affect the time at when your brain releases these hormones or it can affect the level of the hormones that are released. This can delay a period for two weeks or even longer.

If you have missed a period for an unknown reason, it is probably a good idea to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Be sure to get enough sleep, to engage in sufficient exercise, and to take time for yourself each day. If your periods are consistently late or absent, you may need to see your health care provider.

Excessive Exercise
Excessive exercise can lead to a disruption in your normal menstrual cycle. Many professional athletes experience a complete loss of their menstrual period as a result of too much exercise; this is known as exercise-associated amenorrhea.

Exercise causes your body to lose excess fat and lay down muscle throughout the body. When performed in moderation, exercise is a great way to stay in shape, reduce stress, and reduce the risks associated with obesity. However, if you engage in too much exercise, your body will lose too much body fat. This, in turn, will cause a decline in the amount of oestrogen your body produces (because fat cells release oestrogen) and cause an interruption in your menstrual cycle.

If you are exercising heavily, it is a good idea to cut back when you are trying to conceive. Ask your health care provider about a level of exercise that is healthy for you. You may even need to eliminate strenuous exercise completely until your period returns.

Medications
Certain medications that you may be taking for other conditions can sometimes interfere with your menstrual cycle. Medications that are known to cause period problems include:

  • oral corticosteroids
  • thyroid medications
  • antidepressants
  • chemotherapy druges

If your period continues to come late, or not at all, consult with your health care provider regarding any medications that you may be taking.

Find more information on abnormal menstrual cycles at Menstural Delay and Skipping.

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