A menstrual cycle that has stopped is not a disease, it may be a sign that there is an underlying imbalance in the body.
A regular menstrual cycle is regulated by a complex system of messages and actions orchestrated by the endocrine system. The endocrine glands work together to send messages via hormones. This is called the feedback loop.
In very simple terms, the hypothalamus produces GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormones) which signals to the pituitary to produce LH (luteinising hormones and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to signal to the ovaries that it is their turn to release oestrogen and progesterone which is recognised by the pituitary gland.
Simple right? Not so.
As you can see, a healthy cycle is dependent on each part of the feedback loop functioning properly. Think of it as an orchestra, if just one part of the cycle is off, it will throw the entire cycle off, causing imbalances that can affect regular menstrual cycles.
Below are the major and common causes of absent period;
Sometimes, the body is not getting enough nutrition daily to be able to sustain normal functions, including the menstrual cycle.
There are many very important nutrients the body requires to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. Nutritional deficiencies can actually cause menstrual cycle and ovulation irregularities and eventually may cause the entire cycle to stop.
What you eat daily makes up every part of your body. You are what you eat!
Being Overweight or Underweight
There is a direct link between anovulation (absence of ovulation) and obesity and those women who are.
Body fat cells, called adipocytes produce oestrogen. Obese women may have too much oestrogen due to too much body fat.
Women who are underweight may also have anovulation due to lack of body fat.
There may not be enough oestrogen or adequate cholesterol levels being maintained to support the menstrual cycle.
Studies have shown that women with extreme exercise habits have significantly lower levels of estradiol due to low levels of body fat in key areas of the body, leading to anovulation.
Oestrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle.
Too much oestrogen, or too little in the body may cause the feedback loop to not function properly and the menstrual cycle or ovulation may cease.
Now you can see why it is so important to have adequate amounts of body fat; not too much and not too little!
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, sometimes also called polycystic ovarian dysfunction is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age.
There are two distinct and consistent features of PCOS: absent period or inconsistent menstrual cycles and hyperandrogenism (the body is producing too many androgens, the most common one being testosterone).
Stress may cause the body to stop the menstrual cycle. Stress causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin that prevent female fertility hormones from being released at the correct times in the menstrual cycle.
This can cause a disruption in the menstrual cycle by affecting how the adrenal glands function.
Reducing stress and supporting adrenal health is essential to a healthy menstrual cycle and is a relatively easy fix for healthy fertility. The adrenal glands also directly impact thyroid health.
Poor thyroid function may cause the menstrual cycle to stop.
An overactive thyroid that produces too many thyroid hormones is called Hyperthyroidism.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
An absent menstrual cycle is a sign of hyperthyroidism, where irregular or heavy cycles may be a sign of hypothyroidism.
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
POF, also known as Ovarian Hypofunction, is defined as a loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40. The menstrual cycle may cease before the age of 40, or become sporadic. There are a variety of reasons this may happen.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. As perimenopause progresses toward menopause, it is normal for menstrual cycles to become irregular and for hormone levels to fluctuate.
The menstrual cycle may become absent for many cycles and then suddenly come back for a couple of cycles, and then come back again, becoming sporadic for some years.
As ovarian reserve diminishes and egg health declines, FSH levels rise, the menstrual cycle will become more and more irregular, until eventually it stops. Menopause is defined as absent menstruation for a year or longer.
Menopause may also be confirmed by elevated FSH levels between 60 to 100mL/L on two tests done at least 1 month apart, and/or LH level greater than 50mIU/L and estradiol less than 50pg/mL.
Please note: that no therapy can reverse the ageing process or bring back the menstrual cycles in a woman who has already gone through, or is going through menopause naturally.