Short term and long term effects of Hypothalamic amenorrhea
Hypothalamic amenorrhea symptoms are anything but pretty…
Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) is defined as a missing period for 3 or more consecutive months. Assuming you previously experienced regular periods. HA is frighteningly common in the fitness world and I’m just now seeing more women speak about it on social media! HA is not something to push off and dismiss as “normal”. As a woman, your “normal” SHOULD BE having a regular period. Missing your period for an extended period of time has short term and long term side effects that are not joke..
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through my link I will recieve a small comission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!
I struggled with HA for 4 years and if you are currently missing a period I suggest reading How I got my period back for tips on HA recovery. During that time, I experienced many of the symptoms I outline in this post and still pay the price of ignoring my missing period for so many years. I write this post in hopes that you avoid the mistakes I made. Please do not ignore your body, its telling you something is off and you need to fix it.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
What is Hypothalamic ammenorhea?
When a woman has HA, she also has low hormonal levels such as estrogen. Due to the lack of hormones circulating through the body, the hypothalamus, a gland located in the brain that plays a large role in regulating the body’s systems. Will shut down the reproductive system. It does so due to inadequate energy supply and will prioritize other systems such as respiratory and heart health. It shuts these down because reproduction is not necessary for survival. However, it is important for health and wellbeing.
How does Hypothalamic amenorrhea Happen anyways?
HA is caused by an energy imbalance known as RED-s (relative energy deficiency in sport). It is cause by one or more of the following factors:
Eating less than your body requires is a stress on the body. As a woman, you require at least 15% body fat to healthfully reproduce (even that is low I would say 20%-25% is more comfortable). When you lose too much body fat for your unique body, the hypothalamus will signal that it is unsafe to reproduce and shuts down the reproductive system. It does this to preserve available energy for more essential organs such as the heart and lungs. Diets are perceived as famines to the body. Therefore, if you are on a weight loss journey it is important to monitor your period health.
Diets these days are ridiculous in my opinion, either you cut out carbs or cut out fats and eat 1200 calories a day. Please do not listen to diet culture it is incredibly inaccurate and most diets are unhealthy for women. Carbohydrates are essential for ovulation, fats support reproductive hormones, and calories are needed to maintain energy balance. Another form of restriction that can cause a loss of period is intermittent fasting, fasting is restricting your food consumption for 16 hours or alternate day fasting. This can trigger your body into thinking there is limited food supply causing binges. Many women experience irregular periods when fasting and I do not believe it is a sustainable way to eat if you want to support your hormones.
Over exercise is also a form of stress on the body. It is a self-inflicted physical stress and when performed too often, your body can enter the “fight or flight” mode. Exercise releases adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol can reduce the production of estrogen and progesterone (the main female hormones necessary for reproduction). Therefore, a womans reproductive system may shut down when you exercise too often.
Psychological stress will release cortisol into the blood instead of necessary hormones needed for reproduction. Psychological stress can be from work, family issues, and relationship problems. Likely, there is more than one stressor present if your body shuts down its reproductive organs.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea symptoms – SHORT TERM
Symptoms that will present themselves within a year of having amissing period incude the followng.
- Cold all the time
- Brittle hair and nails
- Poor digestion and/or constipation
- Low libido
- Skin problems
- Vaginal dryness
Hypothalamic amenorrhea symptoms – LONG TERM
The long term side effects of HA include:
- Cardiac issues
- Skeletal problems (osteoporosis)
- Psychological issues
Birth control is not the answer to your Hypothalamic amenorrhea problems
Birth control is often prescribed to “cure” HA, however it hardly cures anything. The Pill is made with synthetic hormones. These “fake hormones” will take control of your body’s reproductive system and is a band aid over the underlying problem. The period you experience on birth control pills is a withdrawal bleed. This means ovulation (the whole point of your cycle) did not occur.
Therefore, birth control is not the answer to HA. The answer is to balance your energy levels by exercising less, eating more, and managing your stress levels. If you go to the doctor and they prescribe birth control, please be curious and informed that your options are not limited to pills.
A missing period is not something to push aside for later or try to regain only when you want to get pregnant because your plan might not work as well as you hoped. A healthy pregnancy requires optimal hormonal health. If you are currently missing your period and would like to get it back here are some resources that will help you on that journey, good luck xx