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Amenorrhea: Absence of Menstruation
menstrual cycle is regulated by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain
that also controls body temperature, appetite and blood pressure. The
hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland (located near the base of the
brain) to release hormones that regulate female reproductive cycling. In
order for a woman to have regular menstrual cycles, her hypothalamus and
pituitary gland must be functioning properly. Her cervix and vagina must
also be anatomically normal to allow the passage of menstrual flow.
A problem with any of these parts of the body may keep you from having a
Amenorrhea means that a woman of childbearing age fails to have her
monthly periods. Amenorrhea may be primary (also called "delayed
menarche") or secondary. Primary amenorrhea occurs when a woman has not
her first menstrual period by age 16.
Primary amenorrhea is most often due to late puberty, which is fairly
common in teen-age girls who are very thin or very athletic. Sometimes it
results from a hormonal problem, a genetic disorder, or birth defect.
Secondary amenorrhea, on the other hand, occurs when a woman who has
menstruated previously fails to menstruate for three or more months in a
row. It can be caused by:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding (lactation)
Menopause (the normal age-related end of menstruation)
Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
Stopping birth-control pills
of the pituitary gland
or tumors in the ovaries
tumor or injury
Chronic illness, such as colitis, kidney failure or cystic fibrosis
Emotional or physical stress
Malnutrition or obesity
Frequent strenuous exercise
such as tranquilizers and antidepressants
menstrual periods is a symptom, not a disease. Women with amenorrhea may
have absent periods, acne, increased facial hair, decreased pubic and
armpit hair, deeper voice, decreased breast size, weight gain, and
secretions from the breast.
Amenorrhea rarely is caused by a life-threatening condition. In most
instances, symptoms and conditions related to amenorrhea are reversible
In many cases, teenage girls can help prevent primary amenorrhea by
maintaining a normal weight for their height and age, and following a
sensible exercise program. Primary amenorrhea caused by anatomic
abnormalities of the reproductive tract usually cannot be prevented
On the other hand, preventing secondary amenorrhea can be done by
maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
low-fat diet that meets your recommended daily nutritional needs.
moderately, but not excessively.
excessive alcohol consumption, mood-altering stimulants or sedative
drugs and cigarette smoking.
healthy outlets for emotional stress and daily conflicts.
miss more than two periods in a row, consult with your health care