Whilst not having a period can be quite welcome, it really isn’t healthy for your body. Not having a regular menstrual cycle can mean your whole hormone profile is affected, your bone health and your fertility too. So in this article we will look into how you can get your period back.
Causes of irregular periods
There are a few reasons as to why you can lose your period. Illness, injury, not eating enough, excessive exercise are some of these. You can see that they are all related. Your body is telling you it is unwell or struggling.
It should be mentioned that if you are taking birth control pills this is not a natural period. It does of course make it very tricky to know if your body is menstruating or not.
Can an eating disorder make you lose your period?
An eating disorder can most definately be a reason for your period stopping. This can be due to a combination of restrictive eating, excessive exercise and the body being under stress.
Ammenorrhea : means when you do not get a period.
Primary Ammenorrhea: the term used if you hace not started your period by age 16yrs.
Secondary Ammenorrhea: the term for when your periods stop for more than 3 months.
What is hypothalamic ammenorrhea
A type of secondary ammenorrhea that occurs in eating disorders and in a condition called REDs (relative energy deficiency in sports). The hypothalmus is a gland in your body that sends and recieves messages, specifically related to hormones. It can stop secreting the hormones that are needed for menstruation, including GnRH (ganadotropin releasing hormone). GnRH is responsible for FSH and LH production, without these hormones ovulation and menstruation cease. The hypothalamus does this at points when it feels under stress.
Reasons the hypothalmus may stop secreting hormones:
- Not enough energy and nutrition is coming in.
- Too much exercise/too intense exercise for the energy being taken in.
- Low body fat
- Overload of stress
- An eating disorder
Essentially the body thinks it is under attack or starving. So it tries to protect itself by using less energy and stopping a function.
Physical risks from losing your period:
Whilst we can all have moments we would prefer not to have a period, it is an essential part of life and there are physical consequences from your period stopping.
Your oestrogen levels will be lower, now oestrogen is a pretty important hormone. One of it’s keys roles is looking after your bones and also it helps with your mood.
- If bone health is affected this can lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis. This can be hard to take note of if you are younger. Asking for a DEXA scan can be a helpful way to see how your bone health is. Also I’d encourage you to imagine life in 20 years time. What do you want to be able to do that requires you to have strong bones?
- There is a higher risk of cardiovascular disease with a loss of menstrual function. I think it is pretty self explanatory that we all want hearts that work well.
- Skin and hair problems including hair loss and acne can be another side effect.
- A lack of periods can impact fertility including the ability to get pregnant. Whilst you may not want a baby right now this can be something you may want in the future.
- Your mood can be affected, with increased depression and anxiety.
- The all over hormone profile in the body can be affected with lower levels of other hormones such as the ones affecting hunger. This can make it harder to know when you are hungry for example.
How can I get my period back naturally?
Hopefully reading the above information has shown you how important it is to have regular periods. So if your periods have stopped the big question is how can you restart them?
- Weight restoration is really key. If your weight is lower than your body needs it to be then it will stay in self-preservation mode and not want to restart menstruation. You may have to gain a little more weight than expected for your periods to restart but this does not mean that this will last. Over time your body can adjust back down. This stage is all about trusting your body that it really does know best.
- Stick to regular meals and snacks throughout the day. This will usually look like 3 meals and 3 snacks around 3 hours apart. Take a read about planning a recovery meal plan here.
- Reduce the length and intensity of your exercise if you need to. It is best to seek advice on this from your dietitian and health care team. If you are doing high impact exercise or/or exercising most days for an hour or more you may need to reduce this for a season to allow your body to restore.
- Allow your body to rest. It needs to feel safe and know if has enough energy coming in to support it. This could be reading books, gentle walks, doing crafts, having naps, meditation if thats your thing or any restful activites you enjoy.
How long can it take to get my period back?
It generally takes an average of 6 months for your periods to return once you have weight restored and are taking in enough nutrition for your bodies needs on a daily basis. However this is very much dependant on how long your period has stopped for and how stressed your body is still feeling. It can take longer and some bodies can need a higher amount of weight restoration in order for those hormones to be produced and released.
You may have some signs that your period is trying to return. It can be useful to look out for bloating, mood swings, tummy pain, some spotting or discharge and any other PMS signs that you recognise as usual for you. Don’t forget that your period can impact your appetite and the foods that you crave too.
Keeping a track of your symptoms and periods using an app can be a handy way to get to know your own cycle and body symptoms.
Remember that for your period to restart your body needs eough nutrition, rest and to be at a healthy weight for you.