Amenorrhea (sometimes spelt ‘amenorrhoea’) is the medical term used to describe missed periods. This medical condition takes 2 forms:

  • Primary Amenorrhea
  • Secondary Amenorrhea

Primary refers to someone who has never had a menstrual cycle by the age of 16.

Secondary refers to a menstruating woman that has missed one or more cycles of her period. There are many factors that can be taken into account with the secondary form, however, if you are healthy and are currently sexually active, then pregnancy is the most likely reason you have missed your period.


If you are wondering why your period is late, here are some of the factors to consider:

  • Pregnancy – Once a fertilized egg embeds itself into the lining of your womb, it will send out hormones to your body indicating that the lining should not be shed in order to house the growing fetus.
  • Stress – Any kind of prolonged stress or sudden shock to the system can upset the hormonal balances in your body that regulate your cycle. This will usually settle back down once the stress factor is alleviated
  • Hormonal Imbalance – Hormones such as Estrogen and Androgen will usually fluctuate in your body in order to maintain your cycles but if these hormones are both sustained in high levels then this could upset the balance. One of the causes of this is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) which is often associated with obesity, heavy bleeding, acne, missed periods and sometimes even facial hair.
  • Underweight – Women suffering with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can often experience hormonal imbalances resulting in interrupted periods.
  • Excessive exercise – High impact stress, excessive energy expenditure or low body fat can be the result of rigorous sports training and some female athletes may find this interrupting with their menstrual cycle.
  • Contraceptives – Periods may cease altogether when taking birth control pills and can sometimes take some women months to get back into their normal cycle after contraception has ceased.
  • Medical – Chemotherapy treatment and associated drugs, along with antidepressants and the like, can also play its part with amenorrhea. If you have had any medical procedures carried out on your uterus, this may lead to some scarring or tissue build-up which over time can effect the regular shedding of your uterine lining. Pituitary or Thyroid malfunctions can lead to the over or under-production of the reproductive hormone known as Prolactin. A medical health professional should be able to ascertain what, if any, medical conditions could be the result of your amenorrhea.
  • Breastfeeding – Soon after giving birth, some women may find that they ovulate before they menstruate, resulting in no periods, as the body begins to right itself again.
  • Premature Menopause – This is not common, however, it is one consideration to be made. Normal menopause usually occurs between 45 and 50 although, for reasons unknown, it can happen years earlier for some.

If a pregnancy has been ruled out as the primary cause of your amenorrhea, then there are a number of tests that can be carried out to determine what the underlying cause may be. Besides the obvious pregnancy test, these include blood and imaging tests (such as an ultrasound), physical or pelvic examination, hormonal testing and in extreme cases, internal surgery.

Primary amenorrhea is a separate medical condition in young women that have not yet began menstruating. Among some of the underlying causes for this could revolve around medical, chromosomal or structural abnormalities with the reproductive organs.

Always be aware of any changes to your menstrual cycle, the beginning of your cycles should normally be around 28 days apart, so note the start dates and how long they normally last. Be sure to have a healthy life balance and always eat healthily even if you are not planning on getting pregnant yet.


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