Long-term Health Consequences of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
Many of those suffering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea believe that it is not so much of a big deal when Aunt Flo goes missing. In this post I explain why a missing period caused by HA is to be taking very seriously and shed light on the negative long-term health consequences Hypothalamic Amenorrhea brings.
Your period is your fifth vital sign
Your cycle serves you in so many more aspects than just giving you the possibility of having babies. Along with blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate, a healthy menstrual cycle is your fifth vital sign. The significance of the hormones involved extends beyond fertility and plays a role on tissues and organs throughout the body. With your period, you get a monthly confirmation on black and white that your body is doing alright, that it is in balance. Analogously, if your period is off or even missing, it is a big red flag and needs to be taken quite seriously. What do we mean by a healthy cycle? Firstly, that it comes regularly. By that is meant it lasts about 28-35 days. It also means that you ovulate, and that the luteal phase ideally lasts 12 days or more. Please note, a withdraw bleed induced by the pill is no period.
It is a bit misleading to talk about the period, when in fact the period is only one of the phases of the female cycle. There are in total four phases in the cycle: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase. There is a rather complex hormonal system regulating the cycle (in my post How Do I Track My Cycle For Pregnancy Or Contraception? I go much more into detail on the cycle, its phases and the hormones involved). The hormones involved in the cycle are carrying out so many more functions than just fertility. A lack of period means a lack of important hormones. And absence of these hormones (for all estrogen) can have quite severe long-term health consequences. Most studies have been conducted on menopause women, but in resent years more and more studies on women pre-menopause have arrived at similar conclusions.
A lack period in women with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea has been associated with the following negative (long-term) health consequences:
Leukopenia - A low count of white blood cells
A withdraw bleed induced by the pill is no period
To be put on the pill to "fix" the problem with a missing period can be really harmful. It will only treat the symptom (missing period) and leave the underlying cause (Hypothalamic Amenorrhea) untreated. By taking the pill you will mask the real cause and postpone dealing with the underlying root causes to a later date.
Below I have listed some other myths and misconceptions that I have come across:
You can kick start your period with the pill
Progesterone can kick start your period
You just came off the pill - expect 3-6 months to have a regular cycle
Other women work out as much as you or more, and they have normal periods
If you don’t want kids, then it doesn’t matter
You can be on hormone replacement for the rest of your life
If you have a withdraw bleeding (induced by the pill) you are doing fine
It is normal to lose your period if you exercise a lot
If on the pill, your bones are protected
You are at a healthy BMI so you cannot have HA
As you can see HA can have some severe long-term health consequences beyond fertility. The good thing is, many of the damages are reversible. You deserve to be at peace with your body and health up in high age. Feel free to reach out to me, then we can work on your personal recovery plan together.