Missed Period (Missed Menstrual Period)

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missed-periodA missed period can be a very scary experience. The most important thing to remember is not to panic. While pregnancy causes a change in hormones and a missed period, it is not the only possible cause of a disrupted cycle. For most women, there is a simple explanation for missed periods.

Teenagers may experience skipped periods due to natural body fluctuations. It can take a year or two for the female body to adjust to the new menstrual cycle. This can sometimes lead to missed periods or even two periods in a single month.

It is not unusual for teenagers to skip periods, however, there are a number of reasons that women of all ages could miss their monthly cycle. Birth control pills, excess physical activity, and stress can all effect a woman’s cycle.

For women who are sexually active, pregnancy is always a risk. Even the most advanced birth control techniques can sometimes fail. Women who believe they may be pregnant should see their doctor or purchase a home pregnancy test.

Birth Control

Birth control pills are regularly prescribed to women to either prevent pregnancy or regulate their menstrual cycle. While these pills usually regulate women’s monthly cycles, they can also cause missed periods. This is due to a hormone called progesterone that is found in many birth control medications, patches, and rings.

Missing a period due to a hormonal birth control measure is completely normal and does not pose any health risks. Some women do not experience any periods while on birth control. Even during their week of inactive pills, bleeding may or may not occur.

Birth control is not a hundred percent effective. Women who believe that they may be pregnant should take a pregnancy test even if they are taking birth control.

Excessive Exercise

The menstrual cycle can be very hard on the female body. In times of bodily stress and strain, it is not uncommon for a period to be missed. Women who regularly or vigourously train for sports may experience variations in their menstrual cycle. Their cycle may become less frequent, have less bleeding, or stop completely.

The female body may alter the menstrual cycle in an effort to focus energy on other bodily demands. For most women, their cycle will return to its normal rhythm just a few months after the end of the excess exercising.

Infrequent periods do not pose any health risk to women, however, a complete lack of a menstrual cycle for more than a year could create some complications. Women not experiencing a menstrual cycle for over 6 months should contact their doctor. Women who do not have regular periods could be at a risk of decreased bone density, which can cause fractures in active individuals. It may also lead to osteoporosis in later life.

Amenorrhea

A medical condition called amenorrhea can sometimes be the cause of missed periods. There are two forms of the condition: amenorrhea-primary and amenorrhea-secondary.

Women who are over the age of 16 and have not experienced a menstrual cycle may be suffering from amenorrhea-primary. Females in their late teens who have not menstruated should contact their health care provider for an examination.
Amenorrhea-secondary is a medical condition that causes women to menstruate at the appropriate age, but to experience a lack of menstruation for six months or longer. Women who have not had a period for over six months should contact their doctor.

Stress

A large amount of emotional stress can impact a woman’s menstrual cycle. The body will prevent menstruation in order to focus its energy on more important bodily functions. Normal levels of stress should not impact a woman’s menstrual cycle, but excessive stress could slightly or significantly alter it.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious problem in the United States. There are millions of individuals diagnosed with eating disorders each year. These disorders can be life-threatening and have a number of serious side effects. Over 90% of women with eating disorders are adolescents or young adults.

Anorexia nervosa is a condition that causes women to starve themselves. Around 1% of young women experience this condition. Additionally, 2% to 3% of young women are afflicted with bulimia nervosa, a disorder that causes women to overeat and then vomit or “purge”. Both of these conditions are unhealthy attempts at controlling weight.

When the body is deprived of the food it needs to function, a number of serious side effects can occur. The body will attempt to focus its energy on keeping itself alive with the small amount of food it’s receiving. This may cause women’s menstrual cycles to become infrequent, involve less bleeding, or stop altogether.

Women who believe that they may have an eating disorder should contact their health care provider. The impact on the body goes far beyond missed periods.

Additional Period Abnormalities

There are other menstrual abnormalities, besides missed periods, that women may experience. Some months may involve heavier bleeding, lighter bleeding or bleeding between periods. It is important not to panic when changes occur in the menstrual cycle. While the body strives to maintain a steady rhythm, disruptions do occur and are usually non-threatening.

Spotting Between Periods

Light bleeding may occur between a woman’s periods. This light bleeding is frequently referred to as “spotting”. There are several causes of bleeding between periods. One cause is simply ovulation. Experiencing light bleeding during times of ovulation is not uncommon and does not pose any risk to a woman’s health.

Birth control pills can also cause irregularities in a woman’s menstrual cycle, especially in the first few months of use. It may take the body several months to adjust to the new levels of hormones. During this adjustment period, spotting may occur.

Spotting can also be a sign of pregnancy. An egg can sometimes cause light bleeding upon implantation into the uterus. Women who are already pregnant may also experience light bleeding during the first trimester.

Additional causes of spotting, include a cyst, polyp or infection on the vagina, cervix or uterus.

Heavier or Longer Periods

There are a number of factors that may cause a woman to have a heavier or longer period. Heavier periods are much more concerning than skipped periods due to the risk of anaemia. Women experiencing heavy periods should contact their health care provider to schedule an examination.

Fibroids are a common cause of heavier periods. Fibroids are benign uterine growths. This means that a fibroid is a tumour that is not cancerous and will not cause any serious health risks.

For women who are sexually active, it is possible that a heavier or longer period is actually a miscarriage. This is more likely in women whose period is late or in women who have already experienced more than one skipped period. A miscarriage is very much like a heavy period accompanied by severe cramps and clots of blood.

Longer periods are a common side effect of hormonal birth control. Heavier periods may also be a side effect, but this is generally rare. If women develop anaemia as a result of birth control, they may be advised to discontinue the treatment.

Women recovering from pregnancy may experience heavier or longer periods as a result of their enlarged uterus. The uterus was stretched to accommodate a fetus. This larger uterus accumulates more lining that then has to be shed during the woman’s menstrual cycle. Additionally, the cervix widens during childbirth. This may cause menstrual fluid to be released more rapidly and with less cramping.

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