Amenorrhea: the absence of a menstrual cycle in a woman of reproductive age. In the last 10 months I've had one period. I didn't want to say anything about it until I knew what was causing it. Over the last year I've become a mini expert on hormones and the reproductive system. Please remember that I am not a doctor so I am not sharing this information to diagnose anyone, but maybe it can help others who are struggling with similar situations.
My poor period tracker (amazing app by the way! I encourage every woman to utilize it if only to keep track of their period dates for doctors visits!)
My regular cycles ended last October (I did have one period in January but nothing outside of that one.) At first, I wasn't to worried since I had missed 2-3 months in a row once or twice in the last 10 years. Then, when January came and I cycled again I figured everything was working correctly again. My period never came again and that is a big reason why I went to the clinic in April when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease. My nurse said it was totally normal to have irregular periods when my TSH was so high and that once it came back into normal ranges that my cycle should return.
Well, it went back into the normal range Mid-June and I was still sans period. This is when I started spending hours each week researching possible explanations. I tried SO many different things to get my period back.
I gained weight. A lot of female athletes deal with amenorrhea due to low body fat. At the start of my missing cycles I was 112 and about 17% body fat. By early summer I was 117 and 20% body fat. I waited, and nothing. I had been at my lowest weigh/body fat % for years and still cycled fine so I had a feeling that wasn't the problem.
I adjusted my diet. I read gluten could cause irregular cycles since there is such a strong tie between Hashimoto's anad gluten sensitivity so I went 95% gluten free (still am!). I cut way back on my caffeine. I quite eating apples for a week after I read to much fructose could impair cycles. I started eating way more healthy fats since the body needs fat to produce hormones. Still, nothing.
Finally, I came across a term that instantly stood out to me - estrogen dominance. I had almost every single symptom. The last few weeks I have been bloated and holding on to weight in the craziest places. I felt like my Hashimoto's was flaring up with my lethargy, insomnia, sluggish metabolism, etc. I planned to go in and get blood work taken when my insurance kicks in to see if my hormones were out of whack. Then, I remembered my doctor did do some hormone testing when they first looked at my Thyroid. At the time she basically dismissed my results since the 'normal' range depends on what part of the cycle you are in, and we had no clue where I may be at since I hadn't had one in months.
Looking at the results again and I saw a discrepancy. My FSH levels were mid-cycle at 13.6 while my LH levels were not (they were 6.9.) If my hormones were balanced the way they should be both FSH and LH levels would be within the normal range for the same part of the cycle.
LH (or Lutenizing Hormone) triggers ovulation and is predominant in the second half of the menstrual cycle. What causes low LSH? Low levels of progesterone. This is commonly seen in women who are estrogen dominant. Next question then - what causes estrogen dominance?
Stress. I sometimes work so much that I don't even have time to stop and see how stressed out I am. Also, running causes stress on the body. The positive health benefits of running are numerous but at the end of the day the activity does raise stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Ultimately running helps to decrease overall levels, but I was still 'stressing' my body for an extended period of time, multiple times a week. If you are to stressed out your adrenaline glad will start producing less progesterone so it can focus instead on making cortisol!
Hormone disruptors in food/the environment. Plastics made with BPA, foods that promote the creation of estrogen in your body like flax, soy and even marijuana!
There are more but these are the one's that I felt created the perfect storm that caused my amenorrhea. Taking a look at how hormones effect your monthly cycle and it's pretty clear that progesterone is a vital part! Image Source
I started looking at natural ways to increased progesterone. I came across an over-the-counter progesterone cream, Pro-gest, that had rave reviews on Amazon.
I received it last week and after just a day of using it I noticed a huge improvement in my mood, energy and less bloating. After 5 days of using it got my period. I'm telling you I couldn't have been more excited if I was an 11 year old girl waiting for my first one. I've spent the last few months agonizing over what could be wrong with me. I plan to use this for a few months to get my cycle regular again then will gradually ween off of it as I hope my body will start producing enough progesterone on it's own eventually!
To celebrate I'm going to go re-read "Are You There God it's Me, Margaret", eat a shit-ton of chocolate, and enjoy the fact that I'm being woken up in the middle of the night with horrific cramps again.
Ahhh, Auntie Flo .... welcome back you old witch.