Amenorrhea can be a scary experience for some women and welcomed by others. This is a normal event that happens in a woman's life due to pregnancy or menopause. At times in the menstrual cycle, women may experience cycles of amenorrhea. However, amenorrhea can be an indication of a health problem and should never go unchecked. Birth control pills can both cause amenorrhea and treat amenorrhea.
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What Is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual period. Amenorrhea comes in two forms: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea happens when a girl hasn’t started a period by the age of 16. The more common form of amenorrhea--secondary amenorrhea--happens when a woman misses a menstrual period, after having normal menstrual cycles. Women can develop secondary amenorrhea when pregnancy occurs.
Amenorrhea is a symptom of certain medical conditions, so in addition to amenorrhea, other symptoms may exist. Amenorrhea symptoms are lack of menstrual period. Some women may have spotting during this time, but not a menstrual flow. Spotting is light bleeding that may appear as pink, red or brown spots in the underwear or on tissue. Unlike menstrual bleeding, spotting does not become heavier.
Can Birth Control Cause Amenorrhea?
Some birth control pills, such as Lybrel, are designed to suppress the menstrual cycle. The induced amenorrhea that comes with taking this medication is due to a unique level of synthetic hormones contained in each pill and the length of exposure to these hormones. Another variant is post-pill amenorrhea. This is a rare condition that causes the menstrual cycle to become suppressed for up to six months after coming off of birth control. According to Gynaeonline, up to 3 percent of women develop post-pill amenorrhea. Post-pill amenorrhea may be caused by the pituitary gland being suppressed. This gland normally releases leutinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, which work to control estrogen and progesterone.
Birth Control to Treat Amenorrhea
Women may also use birth control pills to help correct amenorrhea. Some women have conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, that can cause periods of amenorrhea, usually due to a hormonal imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels. For this reason, some women are given low-dose combination birth control pills for treatment. These pills contain low-dose synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which work to control the menstrual cycle or bring it about. These pills normally come in packs of 21 pills or 28 pills. At the end of each pack, a woman will experience a menstrual bleed, or pill period, depending on the brand of pill used.
Women who have previously had normal menstrual cycles, and have experienced amenorrhea for at least one menstrual cycle, should see a doctor. If birth control is suspected as a cause, ask a nurse or pharmacist if this is a normal side effect of the oral contraceptives.