Amenorrhea (absent or irregular periods), is a menstrual condition characterized by absent menstrual periods for more than three monthly menstrual cycles.

Overview and Symptoms

Primary amenorrhea is usually a lifelong condition indicated when menstruation doesn't begin at puberty, while secondary amenorrhea is a condition in which menstrual periods which were at one time regular and become increasingly abnormal and irregular or absent due to some physical cause.

Periods can stop for many reasons, most of which are not cause for alarm. If you’re sure you’re not pregnant and haven’t had a period in three to six months, you should see a doctor. In addition, if your periods haven't started by the time you’re 16 (or 14 if you haven’t started developing in other ways such as getting pubic hair and breasts), then see your doctor.

Aside from normal reasons for not having a period — such as pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause — other factors may contribute to irregular or absent menstrual periods. Common causes are:

  • medication
  • stress and anxiety
  • too much exercise
  • puberty or menopause
  • hormonal birth control
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • overactive or underactive thyroid

Treatment

To determine the cause, a doctor will perform a physical exam and may order additional testing, such as:

  • a pregnancy test, usually checked from a urine sample
  • blood tests
  • ultrasound scan of internal organs

Specific treatment depends on the diagnosis and may be as simple as adopting a balanced diet.

Learn More

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BIDMC provides outstanding care for all women throughout their lives, in a friendly, comfortable and safe environment.

Obstetrics and Gynecology