Amenorrhea is when a girl’s menstrual bleeding (period) doesn’t occur. There are 2 types:
- Primary amenorrhea. This is when the first menstrual bleeding at puberty doesn’t occur by age 15. This problem may be lifelong.
- Secondary amenorrhea. This is when normal menstrual bleeding stops occurring for 3 months or more. This may be because of a physical cause, and usually happens later in life.
Amenorrhea can have many causes, including:
- Ovulation problems. This can cause irregular or missed menstrual periods.
- Thyroid disorder. In many cases, a thyroid gland that is underactive or overactive can cause missed periods.
- Obesity. Girls who are overweight may have changes in ovulation due to body fat. This can cause missed periods.
- A lot of exercise. Some girl athletes don’t have menstrual periods because of low amounts of body fat.
- Eating disorder. Girls with anorexia or bulimia may have amenorrhea if their body weight is too low.
- Pituitary adenoma. This is a tumor that grows in the brain. It may cause problems with the normal function of hormones. This can prevent ovulation and cause missed periods.
- Physical problem (birth defect). If a girl has not started to menstruate by age 15, it may be from a problem with how the reproductive system formed before birth.
- Pregnancy. Menstrual periods stop during pregnancy.
A teen is more at risk for amenorrhea for any of the below reasons:
- Being an athlete
- Being overweight
- Having an eating disorder
- Having a thyroid disorder
- Having ovulation problems
The main symptom is no menstrual bleeding when it’s expected.
The symptoms of amenorrhea can be like other health conditions. Make sure your teen sees her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
A healthcare provider diagnoses amenorrhea in these cases:
- No menstrual bleeding for 3 months or more in a girl with previously normal periods
- No menstrual bleeding for 6 months or more in a girl with irregular periods
- No menstrual bleeding by age 15
The healthcare provider will ask about your teen’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your teen a physical exam. The physical exam may include a pelvic exam. Your teen may also have tests, such as:
- Blood tests. These look at hormone levels and check for pregnancy.
- Pelvic ultrasound. This painless test uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. It can show physical problems of the reproductive system.
The healthcare provider may also need to look for other menstrual disorders, health problems, or medicines that may be causing or making the condition worse.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on the cause and how severe the condition is.
Your teen may need to see a gynecologist. This is a doctor who treats the female reproductive system. Treatment for amenorrhea may include:
- Hormone treatment with progesterone
- Hormone treatment with birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
- Medicine to treat thyroid disorder
- Surgery for birth defects or other physical problems
- Changes in diet or exercise
- Treatment of an eating disorder
- Calcium supplements to reduce bone loss (osteoporosis)
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
Possible complications include:
- Thinning bones. If amenorrhea is caused by low estrogen, this can also lead to thinning of bones (osteoporosis) over time. You teen’s healthcare provider may advise her to take calcium supplements.
- Loss of fertility. If amenorrhea is caused by lack of ovulation, this means pregnancy may be difficult or not possible in the future.
Some preventable causes include eating habits and weight loss or weight gain. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
- Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
- New symptoms
- Amenorrhea is when a girl’s menstrual bleeding (period) doesn’t occur.
- Primary amenorrhea is when the first menstrual bleeding at puberty doesn’t occur by age 15. Secondary amenorrhea is when normal menstrual bleeding stops occurring for 3 months or more.
- Amenorrhea has many causes, including hormone problems, eating habits and exercise, or a birth defect.
- Your teen may need blood tests and a pelvic ultrasound.
- Treatment may be done with hormones or other medicines, changes in diet or exercise, and calcium supplements.
- A girl with amenorrhea may have thinning bones (osteoporosis) over time, and loss of fertility.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
December 04, 2017
Etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of primary amenorrhea. UpToDate., Etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of secondary amenorrhea. UpToDate., Patient education: Absent or irregular periods (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate
Burd, Irina, MD, PhD,Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP,Cunningham, Louise, RN