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Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Scientific Director, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research

Ask Jerilynn |

Lost Periods Due to Stress

Q: 
I am 28 years old and I haven’t menstruated for 3.5 years... I believe due to stress. Chinese herbs haven’t worked, nor vitamin supplements. I haven't tried hormone replacements. My doctor has measured pituitary hormones, my CT scan of the pituitary is normal and my ovaries haven’t gone into menopause. What should I do?

A: 

First of all, most reasons for periods to stop are not caused by diseases but by imbalances. These can come into balance and you can then have a child if you want one.

The four common things that cause an imbalance and result in losing your period are:

  1. being sick,
  2. being very emotionally upset or always worried,
  3. losing weight or being too slim, and rarely
  4. very intense or over exercise (always combined with one of the other stressors.)

When you lose your period it is evidence that the hypothalamus is being wise. Its job is protective. It is like your hypothalamus is saying, “I wouldn’t want this very skinny or very stressed woman, for example, to get pregnant. So let’s save energy for other things and shut down her reproductive system.” If that is the case you will be healthy otherwise, and have normal or low pituitary hormones called FSH and Prolactin.

Because understanding what is going on with your whole self is important in recovery from amenorrhea, I suggest that you find the daily Menstrual Cycle Diary and instructions for keeping it. When you start to recover you will notice development of shiny at first and then later stretchy mucus in your vagina. That is a good sign that your estrogen levels are starting to recover. You may also see that your breasts start enlarging or are maturing. Estrogen levels recover before the body gets it organized to release an egg and to make progesterone.

One of the biggest risks from not having periods (besides being temporarily unable to get pregnant) is that you either don’t build strong enough bone or you lose the bone you have built. Therefore it is important to follow the ABCs of Bone Health for Premenopausal Women and probably to have a baseline bone density test done.

If bone is low or if you are wanting to have a child, one natural treatment that may help is called “Cyclic Progesterone.” There’s a handout about why and how to take it here. When you have no flow you take it for 14 days and then stop taking it for another 14 days. When you see the tiniest spot of blood, call that day 1 of a cycle and then take progesterone cycle days 14-27.

I hope that this is helpful to you.



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