The ins and outs of absent periods
Amenorrhea refers to the absence of the natural menstrual cycle in women of childbearing age. This does not include women who are pre-pubescent, post-menopausal or using hormonal birth control.
If menstruation has not occurred for over three months, it is considered amenorrhea.
It can occur for many reasons, most commonly from physical or psychological stress and it may be an indiction of other medical conditions associated with the reproductive organs and the hormones that govern them.
As strenuous exercise and under-eating are typical triggers for amenorrhea, it is not surprising that it's common amongst athletic women.
Unfortunately, amenorrhea is often not taken very seriously by women who experience it. Some see it as a benefit, not to have to deal with periods. Particularly in sport, there are often perceptions that creating a state of amenorrhea means less disruption to sporting performance.
We have to look at the reality of what absent periods mean. Ovaries not producing eggs, uterus not building or shedding a lining. For women with amenorrhea, an entire system of organs within their body has completely stopped functioning. Obviously it is not as life-threatening as it would be if our heart or lungs stopped working, but it is still a significant problem. Many people assume amenorrhea is only a concern for women actively trying to conceive. The reality is that a female body with non-functioning reproductive system, is not a healthy body.
For women with sporting and athletic goals. How can they expect their bodies to achieve exceptional physical performances when they cant even maintain basic organ function?
Another concerning element of this issue is in teenage girls. If menstruation has not begun by age fifteen, the girl is determined to have amenorrhea. Delayed onset of periods in puberty is associated with increased risk of hormonal issues later in life. It is a concerning matter in any woman, but within this demographic, it is a more serious issue.
If you are an active female or you work with them, you're not expected to be an expert on hormonal profiles, like an endocrinologist or a gynaecologist would be. You are however, most likely to observe amenorrhea in yourself or in your clients.
The lack of education on the matter and the social flippancy regarding absent periods means that you may need to be the one to inform your clients that it is not normal and warrants medical investigation.