What is primary amenorrhea?

Primary Amenorrhea

Delayed menstrual periods: Overview

If you don't get your period every month as expected or don't get your first period by the time you are 15, it is called amenorrhea.

Amenorrhea can happen for many reasons. Sometimes it's caused by a problem with the reproductive organs or another medical problem. Other times it's caused by doing hard exercise for long periods of time. It can also happen if you don't eat well or if you diet too much or have an eating disorder. Pregnancy and certain types of birth control can also delay your periods.

Your doctor will want to find out why your period hasn't started. You may need to make some diet and exercise changes. These may help start your period. Or you may need treatment for another problem.

How is primary amenorrhea treated?

Treatment depends on the cause. If the cause is a physical problem, such as imperforate hymen, then you may have surgery. For other causes, your doctor may prescribe hormone therapy to help control your cycle. It can also help protect your bones. Your doctor also may prescribe calcium supplements for bone health.

How can you care for yourself when you have delayed menstrual periods?

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Get regular exercise. But don't do hard, long exercise. Ask your doctor how much is too much.

What is primary amenorrhea?

The menstrual cycle is the series of changes in the body to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Menstruation most often begins between the ages of 11 and 15.

If you haven't had a first period by age 15, it's called primary amenorrhea. This is different from infrequent or light menstrual cycles, which are very common in teens, particularly in the first couple of years after menstruation begins. Primary amenorrhea is also different than if you start having periods, but then stop having periods for at least 3 cycles.

You can still become pregnant even though you aren't menstruating. Practice birth control if you don't want to become pregnant.

What causes primary amenorrhea?

Causes of primary amenorrhea include:

  • Problems with the structure of the vagina, such as skin covering the opening of the vagina (imperforate hymen).
  • Absence of or an abnormal pelvic organ, such as the uterus or ovaries.
  • Very low or very high body weight.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or fad dieting.
  • Intense exercise.
  • Stress.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, anemia, congenital heart disease, or thyroid disease.
  • Inherited diseases, such as Turner syndrome.
  • A condition that causes a hormone imbalance that interferes with normal ovulation (polycystic ovary syndrome).
  • Medicines or medical treatment in childhood that may have damaged the ovaries, such as chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment in adulthood may cause irregular cycles.

Delayed menstrual periods: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get your period as expected.
  • You think you might be pregnant.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.