What Is Amenorrhea?

A woman’s menstrual cycle is stressful enough without complications. However, there are many factors that can interrupt or change a regular cycle. Here’s what you need to know about what amenorrhea is, how it’s caused, and its treatments. The more knowledge you have about its causes, symptoms, and treatments, the more prepared you’ll be if it happens to you. 

Put simply, amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual bleeding in a woman who is of reproductive age. There are two different types of this condition, primary and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea occurs when girls over age 15 have never had their period. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when a woman who previously had regular periods does not menstruate for over six months. 

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a variety of factors than can contribute to the onset of this condition, including:

  • Obesity
  • Less than 17% body fat
  • Leptin deficiencies
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Overactive thyroid glands
  • Extreme emotional distress
  • Excessive exercise
  • The use of some contraceptives
  • The use of some medications
  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatments
  • Scar tissue in the uterus
  • Genetic defects

Symptoms of Amenorrhea

While the main symptom is the lack of a period, there are other factors that can occur. If you think you may have this condition, consult with a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The following symptoms may occur due to amenorrhea:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in breast size
  • Milky discharge from breasts
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Increase in facial hair growth
  • Headaches and vision changes
  • Pelvic pain

Diagnosis and Treatment

Consulting a doctor should always be the first step whenever you feel you have a condition or illness. Be open and honest about your symptoms so they can properly determine the condition, cause, and then prescribe a treatment plan. Doctors and medical professionals will typically perform tests to check hormone levels or genetic markers and may perform pelvic ultrasounds, MRIs, or a CT scan. 

Treatment will depend entirely upon the root cause of amenorrhea, but may include medication, surgery, lifestyle changes, or a combination of several. Taking steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight may be a suggestion if obesity or low body fat is a cause. Medical treatments could include a change in birth control, estrogen replacement therapy, or removal of scar tissue.

What is Postpartum Depression

Childbirth can be an emotional experience for new parents. As you settle in with your bundle of joy, you might encounter something unexpected – depression. Postpartum depression is often left undiscussed but affects many parents. What separates this from postpartum “baby blues”? Sometimes a rare but more severe condition called postpartum psychosis can develop. 

Defining Postpartum Depression

By definition by the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women and birthing parents after childbirth. New parents often experience “baby blues” after childbirth, where they might experience mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. The symptoms of postpartum depression may be similar but tend to be more severe and last longer, sometimes interfering with your ability to care for your baby and complete other daily tasks.  

Symptoms

Parents can experience depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, and difficulty bonding with their baby. Other common symptoms include changes in appetite, social withdrawal, and sleep disturbances. Symptoms will usually begin within the first few weeks after giving birth but may begin earlier (during pregnancy) or later, up to a year after birth. More severe symptoms may occur, such as thoughts of harming oneself or the baby, and these require serious and immediate attention. 

Causes

Physical changes and emotional issues play a role in postpartum depression, but there is no single cause for the condition. Hormonal changes after childbirth, such as dramatic drops in levels of progesterone and estrogen, may contribute to postpartum depression. Your risk of developing postpartum depression may increase if you have a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Treatments

Fortunately, postpartum depression is treatable.Treatment and recovery time will vary depending on your individual needs and the severity of the depression. Your medical provider will work on treating the underlying causes and may refer you to a mental health professional. Generally, treatment for depression includes psychotherapy, medication, or both. It is important to continue treatment even after you begin to feel better, as stopping treatment too early may lead to relapse.  Left untreated, postpartum depression can last for many months or longer. 

Foods to Avoid During Your Period

Women everywhere know the struggle each month of dealing with their menstrual cycle. As if it’s not enough to handle the pain, bloating, and cramping, there’s also the emotional fatigue that can sneak up. What a plethora of women don’t know is that you can use diet to help relieve some of your period symptoms.

To improve reproductive health doctors recommend avoiding certain foods and drinks. Don’t worry though, the restrictions are only for the week of your period!

Salty Food

Bloating is very common for women on their periods. However, salty foods can cause even more bloating and gas. If that can be avoided by all means do! Things such as potato chips, popcorn, pickles, and other snacks have a lot of sodium and though cravings are a very real thing, try to refrain. Your body will thank you.

Saturated/Trans Fats

Another source of pain during the menstrual cycle can be caused by the saturated fats in certain meats and dairy products. Avoid eating burgers or drinking whole milk during your period and pain and inflammation can often be lessened. French fries, doughnuts, and other heavy carbohydrates are also best to avoid.

Caffeine

It’s sad, but caffeine is in a lot of the things we enjoy, such as coffee, soda, and chocolate. Just remember, it’s only for a week! Caffeine can raise our anxiety levels and create agitation and trouble sleeping so it’s best to lay off the frappuccinos and candy bars until your menstrual cycle ends.

Sugar

Though we often crave sugary candy during this time, it’s best to stay away. If you’re already feeling bloated candy will surely make it worse. Instead, opt for fruit that has natural sugar. Though candy might help elevate your mood short term, it will wear off and leave your body feeling as bad as before.

Alcohol

If you’re not celebrating with friends and family during your menstrual cycle it’s best to refrain from drinking alcohol. The loss of blood can lower your blood pressure which can heighten the effects of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can also increase your flow, making your period heavier.

Overall, trying to eat healthier (at least during your menstrual cycle) can improve your mood and help to alleviate some of the period pain.

 

Constantly Evolving: Weight Gain During Menopause

Women between the ages of 40 and 50 will begin to exhibit changes in their body as it prepares to end their menstrual cycles. Menopause is the time in a woman’s life where they cease menstruation and the ability to reproduce. It is diagnosed officially once a woman has gone 12 months without her period. Just as hormones brought on menstruation, a shift in hormones brings it to an end.

Symptoms of menopause may include: hot flashes and chills, mood changes, weight gain, thinning hair and dry skin, vaginal dryness, and problems with sleep. During this hormonal shift, the body experiences many changes.

Menopause and Weight Gain

When a female begins to go through menopause, it’s not uncommon for them to gain weight. Some believe that the weight is caused by hormonal shifts that mess with metabolism, but this is not the case. Hormonal therapy is almost always given to help balance moods and other unpleasant symptoms, and these supplements also get blamed for middle-aged women being overweight. However, science finds no evidence of any such connections.

As a person begins to age, their metabolism naturally slows. People in their 20’s have an easier time losing weight than that of a person in their 40’s. The fat that has accumulated for many years is very stubborn, and with a body mass decrease, the fat is nearly impossible to lose. To fight the battle of the bulge takes physical activity, but this is the point when most women are ready to settle down and avoid rigorous exercise routines.

A woman in her 40’s or 50’s isn’t typically as physically active as she was in her younger years. With this reduced activity comes a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in weight. However, there may be more to worry about than just a few extra pounds.

While menopause cannot be associated with weight gain, it can be related to a change in the way the body distributes fat. Thus, it affects body composition. Many women change from a pear-shaped body to that of an apple like shape with age. Additional studies are needed to find out exactly how menopause affects body composition. The problem is that most women are overweight by the time they reach this point in their life.

Carrying additional weight around puts a woman at an increased risk for hypertension, osteoarthritis, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, her compromised health can cause issues with mobility, self-image, and many other factors. It’s imperative to stay active to be healthy at all ages, but it’s especially important during menopause. A sedentary lifestyle creates too many risks that are not worth taking. Physical Activity is a must

The 101 on Feminine Hygiene Products

Have you ever asked yourself: “Is my discharge normal?” or “Am I supposed to smell this way?” You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, you’re only one of many. To accommodate these fears, the market in the last few years has been flooded by feminine hygiene products aimed at making women more confident surrounding their vaginal cleanliness.

Many doctors are wary of these products, suggesting that they may do more harm than good. After all, the vagina is a balanced ecosystem that produces healthy bacteria and fluids aimed at warding off infections. These normal processes are often mistaken for uncleanliness, so women turn to products aimed at hindering natural smells. Doing so, however, can lead to a variety of issues concerning vaginal health.

Problematic Science Involved

Since vaginal washes and wipes aren’t used internally, any claim that the soap is pH-balanced is unlikely. Even if it is, since it is used externally, doctors are skeptical that they have any effect at all on pH. Dr. Ugwumadu, a consultant gynecologist at St. George’s Hospital in London, writes, “There will be no difference in the pH of a woman using such products and a woman who washes with a normal shower gel – except that one will be lighter of pocket.”

More Prone to Infections

The natural processes your vagina goes through helps to keep you safe from infection. The efficacy of these processes depends on your vagina’s pH. A healthy pH ranges from 3.5-4.5. The bacteria produced helps to keep that pH balanced. Washing with soap, using douches, deodorants and wipes can eat away at that healthy bacteria, essentially making you susceptible to infections.

Not Regulated

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor the production of or the ingredients in feminine hygiene products. Since they are classified as cosmetics, the FDA considers them low-risk products. Because of this, it is important that women have an understanding of the ingredients these products may contain. While some are safer than others, steer free of products containing fragrances, alcohols, and glycerin, all of which can put you at risk for irritation or infection.
Doctors do not generally recommend these products, since they are rather unnecessary. However, it is acknowledged that feminine hygiene products may have a placebo effect that leads women to feel more confident about their smell and health. For that reason, as long as the ingredients are safe, women should feel free to use such products at their discretion.

Talking About Men’s Health

When discussing family health, the mother and children most often come to mind, but a huge determining factor in the health of a family unit is often ignored. Men’s health is seldom discussed, perhaps due to the stigma many men have about receiving regular care. Such avoidance of healthcare could be part of the reason why, on average, men have lower life expectancies than women, but biology and ethnicity may also be a factor.

Doctors and scientists have not yet figured out the cause of lifespan differences between men and women, but they do have a few suggestions on how men can improve their health and increase their chance at a long and fulfilling life.

Research Family Medical History

Many health concerns and conditions affect both genders, yet men should know of a few that are more predominant in their gender, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, colon cancer, and skin cancer. By discussing health history with family members, men can figure out certain health conditions or diseases they predisposed to. This information can then serves as a guideline to certain lifestyle changes, treatments, or tests and screenings men may need to take and receive.

Make Healthy Choices

Men are more likely participate in unhealthy and risky behaviors than women, such as smoking drinking, and avoiding medical care. If a man already knows what conditions he may be likely to inherit, changing their lifestyle can often impact their likelihood of being affected by it. However, all men should avoid smoking, limit their alcohol, eat a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods, and exercise regularly to achieve optimal health.

Prioritize Mental Health

Men are more likely to face stigmas surrounding mental health than women are due to societal expectations and stereotypes. Since emotional vulnerability has often been seen as “unmanly,” too many men avoid treatment for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. According to a 2017 report by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men commit suicide 3.54 times more often than women.

Due to the opposing nature of mental health disorder symptoms and masculinity, men are more reluctant to seek help. Men are also less likely to be diagnosed with depression since the way they describe how they feel (i.e. fatigue, irritability, and a lack of interest in once favorite or enjoyed activities) are different than the usual symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. The only way to improve men’s likelihood to receive proper mental health treatment is to de-stigmatize the topic and make it a national conversation.

Men’s health is often overlooked and under-discussed. The conversation surrounding men and their health is vital to increasing life expectancies, treating mental health disorders, and ensuring a happy and healthy family unit. Many communities offer Men’s Health fairs, info sessions, and literature that seeks to educate men on why taking control of their health is important. Urge a man in your life to make more regular trips to a doctor or become more familiar with the conditions and symptoms to look out for.

The RESPECT Model

Visiting a new doctor for the first time can be an anxiety-ridden experience for anyone. Not only are you likely meeting a new person, but you’re also confiding in that person with a very personal matter: your health.

 

A recent survey from this summer found that nearly 40% of women indicated they felt at least “somewhat concerned” prior to their first OB-GYN visit. Because of this number, physicians are working harder than ever to establish an open and trusting relationship with their patients. The RESPECT model is helping to do just that, in OB/GYN offices and beyond:

 

R—Rapport. Building rapport with the patient allows her to connect with you on a social level, not just as another appointment to check off. It strengthens your relationship as a rapport helps you see from her perspective and refrain from making assumptions.

 

E—Empathy. This may be harder said than done at times, but remembering that the patient needs help, and is here to be helped by you will keep you in a compassionate state of mind.

 

S—Support. As a physician, it’s your job to help patients and any obstacles they bring with them. You’re part of their team, and team members support one another.

 

P—Partnership. You’re working as a team to fix any given issue, and for that to work, the patient must have an equal say and solid understanding. This also means negotiating roles on occasion, and being flexible when it comes to a matter of control.

 

E—Explanations. Of course, as a physician, you must explain new concepts to patients in ways that make sense to them. What might make sense to the doctor after years of medical school, residency, and a long career likely will need to be broken down for someone not as knowledgeable in the field.

 

C—Cultural Competence. These days, many patients and physicians come from different backgrounds. They have different life experiences. To work well together, they must be able to respect their differences, and adjusting a style of care to allow for them.


T—Trust. This also happens when the physician and patient come from different backgrounds. There needs to be a trust in place for the doctor to effectively treat the patient, but that trust is not always just given. Often, it must be earned, and taking the time to actively work to establish that trust is the only way to achieve it.

5 Other Reasons to Visit Your OB-GYN

A trusted OB-GYN is a critical part of any woman’s professional health team, whether or not you intend to have children. An OB-GYN makes sure your vagina is healthy and your reproductive system is in good working order. But, did you know that you can go to your OB-GYN for more than just those two things?

 

Screening for Breast Cancer

Think of your OB-GYN as the first line of defense in detecting breast and colon cancers. If your annual appointment includes a breast exam, your obstetrician should be the first to notice any strange growths or changes in your breasts. OB-GYNs can also do rectal exams.

 

Treating Depression

Though OB-GYNs are not psychiatrists, they’re still trained to screen for and evaluate mood disorders. Depending on the case, your doctor could start you on medication or refer you to psychiatrist. Because of your emotional connection with your OB-GYN, especially if they treated you through a pregnancy, they are a safe person to confide in and share your concerns with. If you’re pregnant, your doctor will also be knowledgeable on how the medication will impact both you and the baby, as well.

 

Skin Checks

Of course, while a dermatologist is trained to look for signs of skin cancer, your OB-GYN can still perform skin checks. And given how most people have between ten to forty moles, it’s not a bad idea to get a skin check during your annual visit. In the event they notice any suspicious growths, they can alert you early on and get you into the office of a dermatologist to take a closer look.

 

Family Planning

Unsurprisingly, as they have many pregnant patients, OB-GYNs are great resources in terms of family planning. Whether that means you discuss certain genetic conditions you could pass on or figuring out how to have “the talk” with your daughters, your OB-GYN can help address your fears and provide you with the most current information.

 

Bone and Joint Issues

Millions of women across the country develop osteoarthritis, which can be a devastating joint problem, and it can happen a good way away from the beginning of menopause. By measuring and recording your height yearly, your OB-GYN can catch signs like losing height. They can also perform bone scans to keep an eye on your mineral levels. If they can catch the development early on, you’ll be much better off.

Top 4 Pregnancy Podcasts

Being pregnant is an exciting time for expectant parents, but it can also be a lot of new information and uncertainty, especially when it’s the first child. Parents often turn to books for what to expect, but if you’ve tried all of them and still want to know more, try a podcast! There are entire series dedicated to the topic of pregnancy, parenthood, and everything in between, and you can even listen to them while you’re work or in the car.

 

If you’re new to podcasts but looking to try one out, consider one of these:

 

Birthful

Although the host Adriana Lozada isn’t a doctor, her guests come from various medical backgrounds, and they cover a wide range of subjects, drawing on their professional knowledge as well as their own personal experiences. The topics include not just pregnancy, but also the birthing process, breastfeeding, postpartum, and parenting, and each episode is meant to provide tips and tools that new parents can utilize and fit to their own lifestyles. As a birth doula and mother, Adriana’s tone is conversational and knowledgeable, and offers many different perspectives that anyone can enjoy.

 

Pregnancy Confidential

At only thirty-two podcasts, each one between ten and twenty minutes, Pregnancy Confidential is an easy way to learn about the physical, emotional, and lifestyle markers of that week of pregnancy. From the editors of Parents, Fit Pregnancy, and Baby magazines, this podcast feels more like a conversation among friends that slip right into your day.

 

Not By Accident

Not By Accident is hosted by Sophie Harper, and in each episode, she talks about what it’s like to be a single mother by choice. This may ring true for parents in similar situations, but it’s also a great podcast for anyone who loves storytelling in general to take a listen to. There are only thirty-four episodes so far, and each one is honest and poignant.

 

Rockstar Birth Radio

Shalome Stone is seeking to reframe the narrative of being pregnant, and take it from something scary to enriching and inspiring, and she uses her podcast Rockstar Birth Radio to do it. Instead of pain and fear, Shalome Stone wants each mother to embrace the experience and find joy in the process of growing a baby. It’s empowering and uplifting, with wisdom from experienced mothers, as well as the stories of the births of their children. There is information about almost any kind of birth experience you can imagine, and provides a community that expectant mothers can truly find a place with.

3 Ways to Change Your Workout While Pregnant

Being pregnant means a lot of changes, to your body, to your mindset, to your lifestyle. One of these ways includes how you exercise, because now you have the added weight of a growing baby.

 

If you’re trying something new or at all unsure about how your exercise routine will affect your baby, definitely consult your doctor before doing so. Otherwise, here are a few suggestions about how to maintain a healthy workout routine while pregnant:

 

Use Lighter Weights

Lifting is one of the best exercises anyone can do for their bodies, including pregnant women! Expectant mothers who did moderate-intensity resistance training about three days a week for thirty minutes each had lower rates of hypertension and diabetes when compared to other pregnant women. Just make sure to use lighter weights so you’re not overexerting yourself. That and holding your breath can put too much pressure on your abdomen muscles and pelvic floor, both of which are already strained because of the baby.

 

Use the Talk Test

Yes, your Fitbit will give you an approximation of how hard your heart is working, but pregnancy actually creates changes throughout your cardiovascular system you might not be completely aware of. For that reason, use the talk test to find a moderate intensity. The talk test, essentially, is the idea that it should not take you more than a minute to catch your breath and hold a normal conversation. If it does take more than that, you’re probably overworking yourself.

 

Skip the Abs and High-Impact

Contrary to any other time in your life, you don’t really need to focus on your abs when you’re pregnant. Because of your expanding belly, ab exercises can even be harmful when you’re far enough along. Your body is already working to make room for the growing baby, so crunches and other similar exercises are only going to add to the stress that area of the body is already experiencing.

 

In terms of high-impact, it’s not a matter of safety for the baby. The padding should be more than enough to protect it, but too much impact can weaken the pelvic floor, which leads to a whole host of other problems that are best to avoid.

 

Keep an eye out for symptoms, too, which are definite signs you need to take a pause and talk to your doctor before continuing. Pain, dizziness, vaginal bleeding, and amniotic fluid leakage, among other symptoms, are all signs to watch for while exercising.