Each month, one of your ovaries releases a number of eggs. A single egg then matures and travels down your fallopian tubes, so that it can be (possibly) fertilized.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, it leaves your body and so, too, does your uterus’s endometrial lining, which had engorged itself with blood as preparation to nourish an embryo. After the egg is gone, the unneeded uterine lining sheds, and you have your period.
When all goes well, this cycle occurs approximately every 21-35 days. Your periods last anywhere from 2-7 days. But what if you’ve stopped menstruating or have skipped your period?
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD want you to become aware of your individual menstrual cycle, so that you can identify changes that might require medical attention. If you’ve skipped one or more periods, here are five common reasons why:
1. You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
Once you become pregnant, you stop menstruating. Your uterus needs all of the blood-rich endometrial lining possible to nourish your growing child.
However, even an ectopic pregnancy can stop your periods. An ectopic pregnancy is a dangerous condition in which a fertilized egg lodges in the fallopian tubes instead of traveling down to the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening and may also cause tremendous pain as the embryo grows, stretches your tube, and possibly ruptures it. If you have a positive pregnancy test, be sure to schedule a check-up to make sure that your baby’s in the right place and is developing normally.
If you’ve recently had a baby and your periods haven’t started again, don’t worry. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, your cycle stops so that you won’t become pregnant too soon. However, it’s not a 100% reliable form of birth control, so use contraception if you don’t want another baby right away.
2. You’re underweight
Although some say “thin is in,” when you’re underweight, you’re not actually healthy. In fact, being underweight can be just as risky as being overweight or obese. Poor nutrition affects the way your body produces hormones, which changes or stops your menstrual cycle.
When you weigh 10% less than what’s normal for your height and weight, you may not menstruate at all. That’s a sign, too, that your body isn’t getting the nutrition you need. You may have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, that requires medical treatment and counseling.
3. You’re under too much stress or over-exercise
Stress gets a bad name, even though we need short bursts of stress to help us grow and to encourage our body to renew its cells. Too much stress, though, fatigues both body and mind.
Even exercising too much, for instance, isn’t healthy. Many women athletes stop menstruating altogether — a condition known as amenorrhea — because they overtrain and under-eat.
If you’re an athlete or play sports or dance and your periods have stopped, cut back on your workout routines and add more protein and other high-quality calories into your diet. Not only can over-exercise throw off your hormones and stop your periods, but it can rob your bones of minerals, too, putting you at risk for osteoporosis.
Pay special attention to your lack of periods if you both over-exercise and under-eat. You may have a potentially life-threatening eating disorder called anorexia that requires special treatment and counseling.
Mental and emotional stress also affect your hormones and your periods. If you feel stressed out, try meditating or deep breathing exercises. Talk to us and we can refer you to a counselor or program that can help you better manage stress.
4. You’re in perimenopause
Perimenopause is a time in a woman’s life when her body starts to prepare for the end of her fertility, known as menopause. In the years leading up to menopause, your cycle may become irregular due to changes in your hormones. You may skip a period or two. Or, your period may last longer than the normal 2-7 days.
5. You have a medical condition
Cervical stenosis is a rare condition in which the opening to your cervix is either partially or fully blocked, so that menstrual blood can’t flow into your vagina and exit your body. Other medical conditions can change the balance of your hormones so that your periods become irregular. Even medications may influence your cycle and stop your periods.
A regular menstrual cycle is one of the hallmarks of health. If your period is irregular or has stopped, you deserve to know why.
Find out why you’ve been missing periods by scheduling an appointment at Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville. Contact one of our offices nearest you for a consultation and treatment today.