Missed a Period? It Might Not Be Pregnancy

Pregnancy isn’t the only thing that can cause a woman to miss her period. To have a period the ovaries, vagina, cervix, and uterus must all be working properly, and if they are not it could be due to an underlying medical condition. These conditions affect 1 in 25 women, so try not to worry. Most can be treated and your doctor will be able to recommend you on the best course of action. This article aims to explain some of the conditions that could cause a woman to miss a period.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, is a fairly common condition that affects women of all ages. The three main features of PCOS are high levels of male hormones in the body, erratic periods, and cysts that develop on the ovaries. It is usually experienced by women that are overweight or obese, and in most cases losing weight can help to get the condition under control. PCOS is often masked by the contraceptive pill, and it is only when a woman comes off the pill and tries to conceive that the condition becomes apparent.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, often referred to as an overactive thyroid, is a condition that causes the body to produce too many hormones. Women diagnosed with this condition may experience long gaps between periods, extremely light periods, and short periods. Whilst you may be thankful for some of these symptoms, it is important to speak to a doctor about them. You may need medical treatment to prevent damage to your endocrine system.

Pituitary Tumours

The pituitary is a tiny gland in the brain that produces a variety of vital hormones. Sometimes a hormone producing tumour will grow in the pituitary gland and start producing the prolactin hormone in increasing quantities. Although these tumours are usually benign, they can lead to an absence of periods. Treatment usually involves taking medication, which suppresses the amount of hormones that are produced. Periods will begin to start again once the prolactin hormone has returned to its required level.

Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s Syndrome is a complex hormonal condition that affects many parts of the body. It is caused by the development of too much cortisol and can lead to erratic periods and an absence of periods altogether. Treatment for Cushing’s Syndrome focuses on lowering cortisol levels. This can be done through a number of ways, including medication, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Cushing’s Syndrome is rare, but it can lead to death if untreated.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious medical condition in which the sufferer deliberately starves themselves. The weight loss can be severe and life threatening, with many sufferers continuing to believe they are overweight. Many women who suffer from anorexia nervosa have irregular periods, which may stop altogether. The condition can lead to some women being unable to conceive in the future. Treatment for anorexia can be lifelong and many sufferers will have issues with food for the remainder of their life. Gaining weight can, however, lead to periods returning to normal.

Premature Ovarian Failure

Also called premature menopause, premature ovarian failure is a condition that affects 1% of women under the age of 40. It is not known what causes this condition but the effects are usually irreversible. A hormone profile blood test will usually be performed before a diagnosis is given.

Post Pill Amenorrhoea

Sometimes taking the contraceptive pill for a prolonged duration can cause a loss of periods. This usually becomes apparent when a woman stops taking the pill with the hope of conceiving. Usually periods will return naturally, though it is a good idea to speak to your doctor to eliminate any other problems. Other forms of contraception, such as the injection, can also lead to this problem.

If you have ruled out pregnancy as a cause for your missed periods, it is prudent to speak to a doctor or health care professional to find out the cause. Some of the conditions described above, whilst rare, need early intervention. If help is sought, treatment and advice is available.