How to Know If Menstrual Periods Have Stopped
Women experience monthly menstrual periods beginning at an average age of 12. There are many reasons why menstrual periods temporarily stop, and they permanently stop once women reach menopause. In order to understand if or why your periods have stopped, you must consider a variety of factors from medical conditions to your personal lifestyle.
Considering Medical Factors
Evaluate the contraceptives you're taking.If you missed a period while on birth control pills, your period may be irregular or absent longterm depending on how you use the medication and your body's reaction to it.
- Oral contraceptives typically come in 21 day packs with 7 days worth of inactive placebo pills. While taking these pills, you should have your period. If you skip the placebo pills and go straight into the next pack, you will probably miss your period.
- Some newer pills come with 24 days of active pills. This usually causes a lighter withdrawal bleed or sometimes no bleeding at all.
- Some pills come in extended cycle regimens, meaning you take pills continuously for one year without having your period. If these are the pills you are on, you can assume your menstrual periods have stopped and will not resume until you cease use of the medication. However, many women experience occasional breakthrough bleeding or brown discharge even when taking birth control properly. Do not be alarmed if you occasionally bleed while on birth control as it's likely a side effect of the medication. If it's persistent, however, you may want to consult your gynecologist to rule out other causes and consider switching to a different kind of birth control.
- Even if you're on a 21 day pack and do not skip the placebo pills, you may occasionally miss a period while on birth control. If you do not have symptoms of pregnancy and have taken all the pills as scheduled, this is probably just an effect of the medication.
- There are few health risks associated with occasionally skipping the placebo pills while taking 21-day birth control and many women do so to skip their periods in anticipation of big events. However, you should not skip the placebo pills every month. If you're interested in eliminating your period through birth control, talk to your doctor about switching to a continuous cycle brand.If you get the go-ahead from your physician, you may also choose to continue taking the 21- or 24- day birth control and skip the placebo pills, as this can be less expensive than the branded pills designed for use this way.
- If you're using an intrauterine device (IUD) your menstrual period may stop after a few months of use.
Go over any recent lifestyle changes.Sometimes, changes in lifestyle can cause you to miss a period. This does not usually mean menstruation has stopped longterm.
- Have you upped your exercise routine lately? If you're participating in a more rigorous workout routine, this could change the hormone levels responsible for your menstrual cycle and cause a period to be delayed or missed altogether. Low body fat, stress, and high energy expenditure can all result in missed periods. Your menstrual cycle will probably return to normal the next month, but see a doctor if you continue to miss periods after adjusting to a new routine.
- Stress can change the functioning of your hypothalamus, which is the area of your brain that regulates the hormones behind menstruation. If you've been under undue stress lately due to big lifestyle changes like moving or changing jobs, you may miss your period. This will not be a longterm change but you should talk to a doctor or therapist about better managing stress if you frequently miss periods due to stress.
Get tested for hormonal imbalances.A variety of hormone imbalances can cause menstruation to stop longterm. You should see a doctor if your period has stopped unexpectedly to see if you have a hormone imbalance that needs treatment with medication.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) causes high levels of particular hormones rather than the normal fluctuating hormonal levels of the menstrual cycle. If you have PCOS, your periods might be occasionally irregular but they will not stop longterm until you enter menopause.
- If your thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, menstruation can be irregular until thyroid levels are stabilized by the use of medication. If you're diagnosed with a thyroid condition, your period will not be stopped longterm.
- Noncancerous tumors sometimes pop up in people's pituitary glands that need removal as they can disrupt hormone levels and stop menstruation. Once the problem is corrected, your periods should resume as normal.
See a doctor to rule out structural problems.Sometimes, problems with sexual organs result in menstruation stopping. Depending on the problem, this may or may not be longterm.
- Uterine scarring, a condition where scar tissue builds up along the lining of the uterus, can prevent menstruation by preventing the normal uterine shedding associated with your period. Depending on the severity of the scarring, this may eliminate periods or simply cause them to be irregular.
- A lack of reproductive organs, which sometimes happens during fetal development, can result in a woman being born without certain body parts. Depending on which parts are missing, menstruation may stop longterm.
- Any structural abnormality of the vagina can stop menstruation by preventing visible vaginal bleeding during menstruation. However, this does not mean you are not ovulating or that menstruation itself has stopped. Talk to a doctor about your menstrual cycle if you have a vagina abnormality.
Understand the effect of certain psychiatric disorders.Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, can stop your menstrual period as hormone levels are affected by long term malnutrition.
- Anorexia is marked by a prolonged period of not eating or eating in very small amounts, while bulimia is usually marked by binge eating and then purging the calories via induced vomiting or the consumption of laxatives.
- Amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation, is a diagnostic criteria for anorexia. However, bulimic patients only about half miss their period.
- If you believe you may be suffering from an eating disorder, seek medical help immediately as eating disorders can be life threatening.
Understand the basics of menopause.In order to figure out if you are experiencing menopause, you need to understand the basic biological processes that underlie menopause.
- Menopause is the point at which your menstrual periods will stop for good. The ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The years leading up to your last period, where you may experience common symptoms like hot flashes, are often mistakenly referred to as menopause. However, this is actually a menopausal transition known as perimenopause.
- Usually, women experience menopause between the ages of 40 and 55, the average age being 51. You may experience premature menopause, however, especially if you've had surgeries to remove certain reproductive organs.
- Menopause is a natural bodily process that does not require medical treatment. However, many women benefit from hormonal replacement during the perimenopause transition. Talk to your doctor if this is something you feel would help you with the physical and emotional toll of menopause.
Track how long it has been since your last menstrual cycle.Depending on how long it's been since your last cycle, you may not yet be experiencing menopause. If that's the case you may have another menstrual period at some point before your cycle completely stops.
- Irregular periods are common during premenopause. A few missed periods in a row may not be menopause itself, so check with your doctor if you've missed only a few periods in a row. You want to rule out other potential health problems, such as cancer, before assuming you're entering menopause.
- It's a good idea to monitor your monthly cycle so you know when your period is late. You should get in the habit of tracking your cycle as you reach your early 40s as menopause can start during this time. A simple dot on a calendar can be a good indicator of when your period began.
- If your menstrual period has been absent for a year, you are in menopause. Your period will not return.
- If, after a year, you suddenly experience bleeding, contact your doctor immediately. This is postmenopausal bleeding and needs to be evaluated as soon as possible.
Keep track of other symptoms.Keep track of any symptoms you have to gauge how long you've been experiencing premenopausal symptoms. Knowing that you've gone through premenopause already can help you detect menopause itself.
- Hot flashes are common during premenopause. These are sudden feelings of heat in the upper part of your body. Red blotches may appear on your skin and arms.
- During premenopause, your feelings about sex may change. Women become more or less interested in sex due to hormonal changes. Sex may become uncomfortable, however, due to the vaginal dryness some women experience during menopause.
- Vaginal infections and urinary tract infections may become more prevalent in the years leading up to menopause.
- Difficulty sleeping, mood swings, difficulty focusing, and weight gain around the midsection are other symptoms of menopause.
Searching for Natural Causes
Take a pregnancy test.During pregnancy, women do not menstruate. While you may experience some light spotting, you will not have your period during the course of pregnancy. If your period has suddenly stopped, pregnancy may be the cause.
- Many home pregnancy tests are accurate on the first day of a missed period. For most tests, you immerse a small stick in urine and wait several minutes for results. A plus sign, changed colors, or the word "pregnant" indicate pregnancy depending on the test.
- Home pregnancy tests are generally very accurate. Most are about 99% accurate, but some tests are not as good as detecting pregnancy as they claim. It might be a good idea to take two different tests to assure accuracy.
- It's important to see a doctor as soon as possible to confirm your pregnancy with a blood test.
Consider the effects of breastfeeding.Usually, after pregnancy menstruation returns. However, if you're breastfeeding you may not return to regular periods immediately. Breastfeeding regularly can delay the return of your periods for the first months after pregnancy. If menstruation is delayed longer, however, you should talk to your doctor to rule out other causes.
Understand menstruation may be irregular after pregnancy.Your period may take awhile to return to normal after a pregnancy. This does not mean menstruation has stopped longterm.
- Usually, once you cease breastfeeding you'll begin spotting lightly. Your menstrual cycle should return to normal within the first few months after you start spotting.
- You may have unusually large blood clots during your first periods after pregnancy. This is usually not a concern, but if you have heavy bleeding and blood clots for a week or more consult a doctor.
- Remember, even if you don't physically notice signs of menstruation you may still be fertile even shortly after pregnancy. Make sure to use contraception if you want to prevent another pregnancy, even if you're not visibly menstruating.
QuestionI am 57 and still have a monthly period. For the last few months, it comes for 5 days, stops, then comes back after 2 days, stops, then back on for 5 more days. It's always heavy and filled with clots. What does this mean?Top AnswererYou are experiencing the first symptom of menopause.Thanks!
QuestionI am 58 years old and I still have my period every few months. Is this normal?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMany older women still get a period every once in awhile. If you have questions about your period, talk to your doctor.Thanks!
QuestionIs it normal to have missed several months of periods at 45 years old?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. You are probably starting menopause.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if irregular periods takes place at the age of 48?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou may be getting ready through menopause. Make a doctors appointmentThanks!
QuestionI'm just 36, is it possible for me to be starting menopause?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's unusual, but certainly possible. See your OBGYN and discuss your symptoms.Thanks!
QuestionHow long is a normal period?Top AnswererBetween 3 - 7 days on average for most women. It varies from woman to woman.Thanks!
QuestionIf I am 40 and my period this month consists of only a few drops. Should I consult a doctor?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo this may simply be the beginning of menopause. If this continues and you're still worried you may want to consult a doctor.Thanks!
QuestionI have not had a period in a month and a half, when should I be concerned?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you are sexually active, you may want to take a pregnancy test. However, it could also be due to stress or a variety of other reasons.Thanks!
QuestionIs a home pregnancy test the most reliable method of determining pregnancy?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPregnancy tests are pretty reliable, but you should still set up a follow-up examination with your doctor to confirm the pregnancy.Thanks!
QuestionI am 55 and have been on hormone tabs for the past 3 years. My period was always regular, however this month no period and headaches. What does this mean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOne month off isn't cause for great concern, but you should still be in contact with your OB to make sure everything is okay.Thanks!
How do I know if I'm pregnant?
If my period is late and I am 40, could I have started menopause?
Am I starting menopause if I just turned 50 and haven't gotten a period this month?
Should I see a doctor if my periods stopped when I was in my 30s?
I miss my period but the PT is negative what should I do?
- Seek medical advice if your menstrual cycle has stopped for more than 90 days and lifestyle changes, pregnancy, menopause, or other factors cannot explain the change.
- There are 2 kinds of absence of menstruation- primary and secondary. Primary is in a person who has never started menstruating, while secondary is in someone who once had menses and no longer does. Primary amenorrhea is usually secondary to structural or chromosomal abnormalities, while the most common cause of secondary is pregnancy.
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