How to Get Your Period Back

It’s been a really long time since I’ve blogged anything. Business in my gym is going really well, and I spend the majority of my time managing that, plus teaching classes, plus being a mom and a wife. But, tonight, I felt that what happened yesterday needed to be shared (was too busy until now to write this).  I’ll warn you that this post is pretty long, but if you’re someone who has or is struggling with amenorrhea (loss of menstruation), then take the time to read this to the end.

A few days ago I received an email from a local woman who heard about my 7 year battle with amenorrhea (losing my period) through a nutrition presentation I gave at a local college to a women’s Ice Hockey team.

She contacted me because she too was struggling with this and wanted to know what could be done to reverse it, if anything. She explained she’s been researching the condition through her master’s work at school as part of her studies, and has seen numerous doctors who have run a plethora of blood tests and physicals.  

However, aside from not having her period, they can not find anything wrong.

So, she reached out to me because she wanted to know how I was able to reverse the loss of my period and how I was then able to become pregnant.  

We set up a phone call and the outcome was amazing – I wanted to let everyone know about this information so they too could understand what to do and how to help themselves (since most doctors can’t).

When we started the conversation I had her explain to me what she’s gone through so far in terms of testing, and what methods she’s tried on her own to get her period back. She explained that the doctors found that her hormone levels are low and just said that was the reason she wasn’t menstruating. Their solution was to have her go on various hormonal therapies, and right now, she just started birth control.

She understood that her lack of period could possibly come from excessive exercise or under-eating, but she honestly told me that since becoming the assistant field hockey coach (after being an athlete in college), she was actually much less active that she was back when she was a undergrad. Also, she definitely does not under-eat, and has even made a conscious effort to eat more. But still, no period.

Finally, she is sick of doctors telling her to “back off” and “eat more”, because as an active woman all her life, the last thing she’s going to do is sit on her butt and become a typical lazy American.  Plus, even if she did, does that mean when she starts training again, her period will go MIA just like it has now?

So, what’s the answer? Why can’t she menstruate when she’s not over-training, not under-eating and not being cruel to her body? She then explained that the thought of becoming infertile now scares the living crap out of her because even though she has no desire for children at the moment, she may one day.

After listening, I sincerely empathized with her, because I too went through the same stress – wondering why I wasn’t having my period despite having every blood work test done under the sun (and finding my hormones too were also low), being told I exercise too hard (where at the time I wasn’t exercising any harder than I do now, or I had at any time in my life), that I don’t eat enough (when I was actively eating more and even putting on weight), and that I too possibly could become infertile. It scared me shitless and all I did was worry and stress, and worry and stress more. I felt like I was an abnormality, despite reaching every damn research paper on the topic and contacting PhD researchers who were actively studying it.

Nothing helped. No one helped. Not even the oncologist (cancer doctor) who scanned me for brain tumors (yeah, talk about scary…. Damn!).

Until I read a paper about the effects of stress on reproduction. It’s actually a very primal response for every female, human or not.

When the female body is under undue stress, it will NOT reproduce (the whole purpose of her menstrual cycle). Think of it like your body giving out a warning sign saying, “Hey Eggs, this isn’t a good time to turn into babies. It’s too crazy out here in the world and you wouldn’t survive. I’m not going to allow you eggs to become fertilized and that’s all there is to say about that.”

And, each woman has their own level of “Stress Susceptibility”  (check pubmed and you’ll see the effects of stress susceptibility on various functions in humans and animals; it’s no joke).

Usually this stress is in the form of nutritional or physical – lack of energy intake (food) to match energy expenditure (exercise most common). It can be due to lack of calories, or too much exercise. Or  both.

HOWEVER – this is NOT the case for as many women as we may think. Most of the women I’ve worked with now over the past several years in this very area, are not under-eating and not over-exercising.

You know what they all are doing though? They’re overstressing.

They’re worrying that:

a)      There’s something seriously wrong with them  and that’s why doctors can’t help them

b)      They’ll never going to be able to have children

c)       Their bones are going to snap in half the next time they move (a common claim to hypo-estrogenism “low estrogen” is low bone mineral density and even osteopenia, leading to osteoarthritis. But, most active women who lift weights actually don’t have this problem unless there’s another issue going on. For me, despite my 7 year period loss I have amazing bone density – thank you squats, deadlifts and overhead pressing).

d)      They’ll never get their period back and will become very ill/sick/diseased

Take the woman I worked with from Australia (whose name is actually also Cassandra). Her and her husband desperately wanted to become pregnant as they weren’t getting any younger and wanted  a child to make a family with. After I had her stop weighing and measuring every morsel of food that went in her mouth (yes, constantly tracking your food intake is another stressor know as Cognitive Dietary Restraint, and should be stopped if you are ameorrheic), I then had her work on de-stressing. I asked her to stop worrying she’d never have a baby, asked her to count all her blessings and be happy with all the wonderful things she had in her world and asked her to believe that she could (and would) become pregnant when her body was ready.

This process took a bit of time (a bit over a year), but now, her and her husband are happy parents with a beautiful baby girl to complete their lives. We had to revisit the topic of de-stressing several times, I’m not going to lie, but in turn, it all worked out.

Then, think about all the couples you know who are doing everything under the sun to have a baby, but just can’t. Fertility treatments, hypnotism, supplements, therapy, etc.  But nothing works. They then turn to adoption, and are blessed with a beautiful child they can call their own from another mother. However, once that stress of trying to conceive on  their own is lifted, guess what? They become pregnant.

This whole same situation was happening with this woman I was having a phone conversation with. She was scared. Scared enough to bring herself to tears while we were speaking. She was so stressed and so worried that she would be permanently scarred by this.

But, I reassured her that she would prevail and once she lifted these fears and let this stress take a permanent hike, she would start menstruating again.

This is exactly what happened to me. When I met my now husband 8 years ago, I was in a super stressful place. I thought I was completely infertile and was stressing about that. I was doing a very stressful PhD in a new country, with no family and no friends anywhere near me. I was trying my hardest to just fit in, be normal and not be a freak who didn’t have my period.

So when I started dating this man I now call my spouse, I started enjoying life again. He took a ton of stress out of my life and helped me stop and smell the roses, so-to-speak. I was actually happy for the first time in a very long (long, long) time. And guess what? My period naturally came back on its own. It wasn’t the prettiest period, or even the most comfortable to start, but eventually it became normal.

My period actually became even more normal after I had my daughter (after pregnancy and breastfeeding). It’s almost like pregnancy re-set me in a good way (and, my pregnancy was completely unplanned and not even hoped for… but now, I’m so glad it happened because my daughter is a rock star). :)

Overall, it is most often, for most women, in most situations (barring any true abnormalities like tumors, PCOS (which can also be corrected with diet in fact), severe eating disorders, or other diseases), stress that causes her period to go into hiding.

Yes, a woman going through this and wants to get her period back, needs to seriously asking herself if her food intake is not drastically lower than her energy needs, if her diet Is not lacking required nutrients (like fat in general…), and if her exercise is not excessive.

She then needs to evaluate how stressful her life is:

1)      Is she moving to a new location and starting all over again with no support around her?

2)      Is her job so stressful that she can’t even think straight?

3)      Does she take time for herself and do things that make her happy?

Stress in many forms is the root of most cases of amenorrhea. If food, exercise and life is in balance, take a step back and see how stressful you’re being on yourself. If you’re constantly  worrying that something wrong with you. and stressing that you’ll be infertile forever, your body will not and won’t let you reproduce, which means, usually, no period.

Take a step back, re-evaluate and start being nice to yourself. You’re not a freak, you’re not abnormal, you’re not diseased. You’re just stressed and you can change that as long as you truly believe and love yourself.

Please feel free to share this with all the women in your life. Hopefully it can help them, like it helped the woman I spoke with yesterday.

And, if you have any comments, please email me via my website contact form. I removed comments because spammers suck.

Thank you!!

 

 

 

Posted Dec 12, 2012 by Cassandra Forsythe.
This entry is filed under pregnancy.
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