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Missed period

Missing a period doesn't always mean a woman is pregnant.

Missing a period, but having a negative pregnancy test, is one of the most common complaints women seek advice about.

Absence of periods

The medical term used to describe " absence of periods" is amenorrhoea. Women normally do not menstruate before puberty, during pregnancy, or after the menopause. If a woman does not get her period when she normally should, it may be the symptom of a treatable medical condition.

There are two types of amenorrhoea: primary amenorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea. Primary amenorrhoea is when a young woman has not had her first period by the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhoea is when a woman who has had normal menstrual cycles stops getting her monthly period for six months or more.

What causes amenorrhoea?

Amenorrhoea can be caused by any number of changes in the organs, glands, and hormones involved in menstruation.

Possible causes of primary amenorrhoea, when a woman never gets her first period, include:

  • Failure of the ovaries, female sex organs that release eggs.
  • Problems in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or the pituitary gland (a gland in the brain that makes hormones involved in menstruation).
  • Poorly formed reproductive organs.

In many cases, the cause of primary amenorrhoea is not known.

Common causes of secondary amenorrhoea (when a woman who has had normal periods stops getting them) include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Stopping the use of contraception
  • Menopause
  • Some birth control methods

Other causes of secondary amenorrhoea include:

  • Stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • Depression
  • Certain drugs
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Over-exercising
  • Ongoing illness
  • Sudden weight gain or being very overweight (obesity)
  • Hormonal imbalance due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Tumours on the ovaries or brain (rare).

A woman who has had her uterus or ovaries removed will also stop menstruating.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 04, 2014

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