In Spring of 2015, I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.
What is Hypothamalic Amenorrhea (HA)?
There can be several causes of this condition, in which a woman’s period is absent for more than 3 months. In my case, it was a result of weight loss, stress, extreme exercise, and restrictive / disordered eating. My estrogen, LH, and FSH hormone levels were extremely low. Not surprising, given that I had put my body in flight or fight mode from over-exertion!
Essentially, when your body is put under a lot of physical and emotional stress, it starts to wind-down in an effort to focus on functions that are essential to your survival. Believe it or not, reproduction is not essential to your survival. Therefore, my body decided (and rightly so) that I was not ready to have a baby, and stopped producing the hormones to ovulate as a result.
Unfortunately, many women athletes experience Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (also known as Female Athlete’s Triad) as a result of the characteristics I mentioned, as well as low body weight and low body fat percentage. In fact, 20-25% body fat is the optimal range for reproduction. Ladies, the next time someone tells you that the ‘perfect body’ is all about minimizing your body fat percentage, please shove that number range in their face!
Why can HA go undiagnosed?
In my case, I (obviously) noticed that I wasn’t getting a period around spring of 2014. However, in all honesty, I was too consumed in weight-loss and marathon training to make time to care. I also feared that a doctor would ask me to gain weight – something I was not willing to do any time soon! My initial oversight turned in to neglect, and it wasn’t until I had some down time between projects that I was able to do some thinking, come to my senses, and finally go see my doctor.
For many other women, HA can go undiagnosed as a result of birth control. I have never been on birth control, so this was not the case for me. Because birth control induces a ‘fake period,’ you will not notice the lack of a period if you are taking birth control. As a result, you could be exhibiting lifestyle behaviors that put you at-risk for HA, but you are not aware as you haven’t experienced a lack of a period. Make sure to regularly check-in with your healthcare provider to discuss the pros and cons of birth control, and assess whether your lifestyle is putting you at risk for HA.
It’s not all bad news!
HA is VERY curable, and can be done so naturally. I am currently on my journey to recovery, and hope to use this blog to share my experience with you all.
Guilt-Free Girls who have inspired me
Here are links to the blogs of some phenomenal women, whose HA journey and willingness to share their story really inspired me. I actually reached out to Angela and Ashley via email, and they were both super sweet and incredibly supportive!