In 2007, I experienced a massive breakdown in my body. I couldn’t heal from certain injuries, my belly was so bloated that I looked like I was in my third trimester, my hormones were flatlined (all of them—my body doesn’t discriminate apparently), and I was having dizzy spells and brain fog. And if that weren’t bad enough, I stopped getting my period. At first I thought, “Sweet, at least I don’t have to worry about debilitating cramps this month.” But then one month turned into two, then three… sometimes nine months of no period. Finally, after years of irregular periods (and no answers) one of my mentors that I was also seeking health coaching from, sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and lovingly said, “You will remain infertile and continue to have these issues as long as you stay in that toxic environment.”
Yeah… damn was right.
That was the moment I decided to truly focus on my mental/emotional health and figure out an exit plan. I do not lie, friends. The day after I left my toxic environment, my period started. I felt like it was a Godwink—a wink from the Universe confirming I made the right move. Now, don’t get me wrong, my period wasn’t magically fixed. I continued to miss periods from time-to-time and I certainly wasn’t ovulating yet in the first few years following that, but I was moving in the right direction. The only question I had was, “Why? What was at the root cause of my irregular period?”
The answer came to me many years later: hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). Hypo-say-what? Exactly. HA is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means you’re diagnosed with it when all other possible causes of a missed period (aka amenorrhea) have been ruled out, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and certain medications.
What is HA and how is it diagnosed?
HA is diagnosed during peak reproductive years and is characterized by either 1) no period for three months when your period had previously been regular, or 2) an irregular period for six months that warrants further investigation. It is caused by any or all of the following: stress, excessive exercise, and/or not eating enough calories. When the body undergoes any or all of these stressors, it creates a miscommunication between hormones in your body. Basically, a region in your brain known as the hypothalamus doesn’t release an important hormone, which creates a domino effect of miscommunication that results in no period. Not cool.
How to get your period back!
Fun fact: HA is reversible with lifestyle changes! Woot, woot! Here are the big three tips to get your period back on track.
Ask for Support. I’m a big fan of therapy and surrounding myself with supportive, loving people. Sometimes life is tough. Really tough. It’s incredibly helpful to have an outside person, like a therapist, in your corner to help you navigate through stress and negative self-talk. This was hands-down the best thing I did for myself, regardless of HA.
Eat! I have worked in the wellness world for almost 20 years and can say with certainty that many of us don’t eat enough to support our body. HA or not, if a magazine cover, social media post, or person tells you to eat 1200-1500 calories daily—run! Run as fast as your sweet, swift legs will take you, because you need to fuel your body and that ain’t gonna cut it. Now if you are healing from HA, many women need to eat a minimum of 2500-3000 calories daily to support their body. Bring it.
Modify Movement. Even though exercise is a positive stress on the body, it’s still a stress. If you have HA, it’s important to re-evaluate your current exercise routine and find what works best for you, which may take some experimenting. This may look like leisurely walking, gentle yoga, and/or bodyweight exercises. What’s most important is finding what works for you so your body can heal.
I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or send me an email stating one thing you’ll do today to work on getting your period back. Also, if you’d like to get your period back, I’d love to help. I’m an expert in the eating and the moving. Please send me an email and let’s work together!
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With love, Steph
Gibson, M. E. S., Fleming, N., Zuijdwijk, C., & Dumont, T. (2020). Review: Where have the periods gone? The evaluation and management of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Endocrinology, 12(Supplement 1), 18-27. doi: 10.4274/jcrpe.galenos.2019.2019.S0178.
Klein, D. A., Paradise, S. L., & Reeder, R. M. (2019). Amenorrhea: a systematic approach to diagnosis and management. American Family Physician, 100(1), 39-48.
Shufelt, C. L., Torbati, T., & Dutra, E. (2017). Hypothalamic amenorrhea and the long-term health consequences. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 35(3), 256-262. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1603581.