If your period suddenly stops, you’ve taken a few pregnancy tests, and you’re not pregnant...it can feel a little confusing or even worrying.
But don’t worry, there are many reasons why periods stop and it’s not always a bad thing! Our bodies work hard to keep a complex system of hormones in balance and sometimes these change or fall out of balance for a time.
Not getting your period doesn’t always mean there’s a bigger problem going on, but it’s good to check in with your doctor to figure out what’s happening.
So, why has my period stopped?
You might hear people talk about absent periods as ‘amenorrhea’. This pretty much means that someone who is not pregnant or menopausal, has missed one or more periods.
There are a few reasons this might be happening, including:
Something’s throwing your hormone balance off
Two possible causes are polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid issues. PCOS often stops ovulation (the release of an egg from a follicle, ready for fertilisation by sperm) from occurring and therefore you might not get your period. Additionally, your thyroid is very involved in making hormones. If there’s something not quite right with your thyroid then it’s best to get a blood test to check if this might be suspect number one for your MIA periods.
You’ve recently stopped using birth control or been on it for a while
Hormonal birth control options (pills, injections and devices) work by changing the balance of hormones in your body, and they can lead to absent periods.
With certain estrogen-based pills or the Mirena, your uterine lining simply doesn’t build up so there’s nothing really to shed through having a period.
When you stop using hormonal birth control, it can take some time for your body’s natural hormones to start being produced again.
You’re taking testosterone
There are a few reasons why testosterone therapy is sometimes used, including:
- By trans and non-binary people for the purpose of gender transition,
- By female athletes seeking to improve performance, and
- By post-menopausal women to increase sex drive.
If you’re taking testosterone (increasing your body’s baseline testosterone levels), this can mean no more periods. Everybody is different and some bodies will stop menstruating quite quickly, whilst others will continue to have periods for 6 months or more.
The stress is building!
When your body is under stress, the fight, flight and freeze (survival) response is activated which changes the types of hormones that you’re making. Your body releases cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine.
When flooded with these hormones, your system’s priority is survival. Broadly, your body makes the call that a time of stress and danger is not a good time to get pregnant and in order to make sure any baby created has the best chance of survival, may prevent your period.
You have low body fat
Estrogen is one of the hormones that triggers menstruation and it is housed in fat cells. Folks with low body fat might not have enough fat cells to store the estrogen needed to menstruate. As a result, if you have a very low body fat percentage, you might not have enough estrogen to support menstruation.
You’re highly athletic
Similarly, for folks who are elite athletes, low body fat and exercise-related hormone changes can lead to missed periods.
For some elite athletes, the combination of intense physical training with low caloric intake can result in lower body fat and lower production of key menstrual cycle hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
If your body doesn’t make enough estrogen and progesterone, and can’t store estrogen (housed in fat cells) you might experience missed or irregular periods.
No reason, you’re just irregular
For some menstruating people, irregularity is normal. It’s not always a sign of something bigger. If you know this is your consistent normal, it’s likely there’s nothing to worry about.
You think you’re not, but sometimes tests can show a false negative result - especially early on. Keep an eye on changes in your body such as tender and swollen breasts, nausea, an increasingly frequent need to pee and feeling tired more often.
Irregular or absent periods can be a sign that you’re entering menopause. Keep an eye on any other changes such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
How can I start having periods again?
If you’ve noticed your periods are MIA, have a chat with your doctor. They can support you in working out what’s happening and how to get them back.
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