What is amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is the absence of a monthly period. Women normally do not menstruate before puberty, during pregnancy, and after menopause. If amenorrhea happens at other times, it may be the symptom of a treatable medical condition.

There are two types of amenorrhea: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is the absence of a first period in a young woman by the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who has had normal menstrual cycles stops getting her monthly period.

What causes amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea can be caused by any number of changes in the organs, glands, and hormones involved in menstruation.

Primary amenorrhea

Possible causes include:

  • Failure of the ovaries (female sex organs that hold eggs).
  • Problems with hormones secreted by the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland (areas in the brain that make hormones involved in menstruation.
  • Poorly formed reproductive organs.

In many cases, the cause of primary amenorrhea is not known.

Secondary amenorrhea

Common causes of secondary amenorrhea are:

Other causes of secondary amenorrhea include:

  • Stress.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Depression.
  • Certain drugs/medications.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Over-exercising.
  • Ongoing illness.
  • Sudden weight gain or being very overweight (obesity).
  • Problems with hormone-making glands, including the thyroid (rare).
  • Tumors on the ovaries (rare).
  • Earlier uterine surgery with scarring.

A woman who has had her uterus or ovaries removed will also stop menstruating.

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