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Missed Periods? Don't Ditch Your Birth Control Just Yet

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Hormone-based birth control methods can radically interfere with your menstrual cycle. One commonly reported side effect is a complete lack of a monthly period. For some women, this is a dream come true; for other women, the lack of predictability and monthly confirmation of no pregnancy is distressing.

Birth control is often the cause of missed periods, but not always. Before you give up on your birth control method, take a look at your lifestyle and talk to your gynecologist. Missed periods can be a warning sign of a bigger problem.

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long and ends in a period lasting from three to five days. If your menstrual cycles or periods last longer or shorter than these averages, however, you have no immediate need for alarm. Younger women in particular can experience vacillating menstrual cycles.

Understanding Amenorrhea

The lack of a menstrual cycle is called "amenorrhea." If your periods have stopped since you started taking birth control, it is quite possible that your birth control caused the disruption.Yet, birth control is not the only thing that can interfere with your cycle and cause your period to stop.

  • Exercise: Between 60 and 65% of female athletes--especially runners--suffer from athletic amenorrhea. If you have upped your training intensity since taking birth control, it could be your strenuous workouts and not your birth control that is causing you to miss your periods.
  • Eating Disorder: Eating disorders, especially anorexia, prevents your body from getting the energy it needs to function properly. As a result, amenorrhea is a common symptom of an eating disorder. If you have started dieting excessively since taking birth control, your sudden menstrual cycle disruption could be the result of your eating habits and not your birth control.
  • Stress: When you are stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. When your body produces too much cortisol, it produces lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, which manifests in menstruation cycle interruptions. If you are going through a stressful time in your life and recently started a new birth control method, perhaps your stressful circumstance is the culprit.

Solving the Mystery

So, how can you tell if your menstrual cycle disruption is the result of your birth control, or something else? Amenorrhea can be a symptom of a very serious health problem, so do not take your lack of periods lightly.

Schedule an appointment with a gynecologist like Richey Mark E MD PC as soon as possible. Your gynecologist can determine if a medical condition is the source of your amenorrhea and recommend a treatment plan.

If your gynecologist determines that your birth control method is indeed the cause of your amenorrhea, you can rest easy. If this truly disturbs you, your gynecologist can recommend an alternative birth control method; sometimes, however, just knowing that your amenorrhea is a harmless side effect of your birth control is reassurance enough.