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What causes amenorrhea?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Because menstruation is a necessary bodily function in women, amenorrhea is usually a symptom rather than a disease in itself. A lack of menstrual period for a few months usually indicates pregnancy, as the uterine lining remains to provide nutrition to the fertilized egg. Primary amenorrhea is usually caused by a birth defect affecting the reproductive system, a genetic disorder, or disrupting of the pituitary gland's function. Secondary amenorrhea can be caused by the following situations:

  • Hormone-based contraceptives, including oral medication, injections or those containing progesterone, can disrupt the menstrual cycle for up to six months after use.
  • Hormonal disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. This disorder is indicated by an imbalance of estrogen and the male hormone androgen, and can cause facial hair, amenorrhea or overly heavy menstruation, and obesity.
  • Uterine scarring (otherwise known as Asherman's syndrome) from surgery or infection.
  • Premature menopause (also known as primary ovarian insufficiency), in which a woman's supply of eggs diminishes before age 40.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, cause abnormally low body weight and disrupt the body's balance of hormones.

Other drugs, such as antidepressants, chemotherapy, hallucinogenic drugs or cocaine.

Primary ovarian insufficiency (sometimes listed as premature menopause) is generally considered secondary amenorrhea when it refers to the diminishing of a woman's supply of eggs before age 40.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.