What Causes Missed Period (Amenorrhea) In Teens And When To Seek Help?

✔ Research-backed

Amenorrhea in teens can be due to various reasons ranging from lifestyle factors, hormonal issues, and congenital anatomical disabilitiesiConditions present from birth and could be hereditary or due to infection or injury to the fetus . This is missed periods for more than three months or a complete absence of menstruation. The first menstruation (menarche) usually occurs around 12-13 years of age, and nearly 98% of girls experience puberty and menarche by the age of 15 (1). It is recommended to seek medical care if your girl’s menstruation has not begun by this age or has missed periods for more than three months. Doctors may recommend pharmacological or non-pharmacological interventions for amenorrhea based on diagnostic tests and pelvic ultrasound findings.

Read on to know the causes, signs, complications, and amenorrhea treatments for missed periods in teens.

In This Article

What Is Amenorrhea In A Teen?

The absence of menstrual periods is called amenorrhea. There are two types of amenorrhea (2):

  • Primary amenorrhea: This refers to the absence of menarche by the age of 15 years.
  • Secondary amenorrhea: This refers to the absence of menstrual periods for three months or more in otherwise healthy menstruating teens.

Missed periods are normal and common during the first and second years of menstruation. They can be caused due to a lack of ovulationiPeriod when the ovary produces an egg every month. However, if this persists, your teen may require a gynecology consultation to evaluate her reproductive health and determine the underlying cause.

Causes Of Missed Periods In Teenagers

Causes of amenorrhea in teenage girls include (3): 

  1. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is believed to impact approximately 6% to 12% of women of reproductive age in the United States. This condition may have an effect on up to 5 million individuals, as stated by the data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PCOS may cause hormonal imbalances and ovulation failure, thus leading to amenorrhea.

Adriana Espinosa Janković, a blogger, was diagnosed with PCOS at a young age. She was prescribed birth control pills at the age of 15 to control her symptoms. However, upon moving to Mexico, her anorexia relapsed, and she stopped taking birth control pills as per her nutritionist’s advice. She says, “Doing this stopped my periods from coming completely, also known as amenorrhea. So I went from having a monthly period to only having about one or two periods per year (i).”

PCOS may cause missed periods in teens

Image: IStock

  1. Under or overactive thyroid gland: Thyroid hormones can interfere with ovulation.
  1. Obesity and underweight: These factors may affect the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and trigger amenorrhea. 
  1. Heavy workouts (athletes) and dieting: Low body fat, stress, and high energy use could interrupt normal periods. 
  1. Eating disorders such as anorexia: These could cause extreme weight loss and affect hormone levels, thus causing amenorrhea.
  1. Pituitary tumors: Pituitary tumors, such as prolactinomas, can disrupt normal hormone levels and cause amenorrhea.
  1. Structural abnormalities of the reproductive system: Absence of reproductive organs; and various other defects which your doctor will be able to diagnose
  1. Pregnancy: During pregnancy, hormone levels change, and the endometriumiThe inner lining of the uterus is not shed; therefore, there is a natural absence of menstruation.
  1. Stress: This may affect the function of the hypothalamus in regulating the menstrual cycle.
  1. Birth control pills, IUDs, and shots: Hormonal contraceptives interfere with menstruation due to the suppression of ovulation. Sometimes, it may take a while to return to the normal cycle, even after the cessation of contraception use.
Hormonal contraceptives may cause a missed period in teens

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Medications and drug interactions: Certain drugs could interfere with menstrual hormones or hypothalamic regulation of hormonal function and suppress ovulation, thus resulting in amenorrhea.

protip_icon Be watchful
Medications such as antidepressantsiMedications used to alleviate or treat depression and anxiety disorders , antipsychotics, and blood pressure drugs can cause menstrual irregularities (2).

The most common cause of missed periods after the first year of menarche is pregnancy. Chronic illnesses such as tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc., may also cause amenorrhea.

Symptoms Of Missed Periods In Teens

Lack of menstrual bleeding is the main symptom of amenorrhea. The other signs and symptoms may depend on the cause.

These may include (4):

  • Weight loss or gain: Unusual changes in body weight, whether it’s gaining or losing, may occur in teenage athletes and those with eating disorders and thyroid problems.
  • Facial hair, hair loss, acne: These symptoms can be associated with polycystic ovarian disease and other hormonal imbalances.
Acne may be a symptom of PCOD

Image: IStock

  • Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting can often be seen in the case of pregnancy.

protip_icon Did you know?
Irregular periods in teens may also be associated with breast soreness, disturbed sleep, and mood swings (9).

These are signs and symptoms of conditions that may contribute to amenorrhea. You may visit your teen’s healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. 

Risk For Amenorrhea In Teens

Teenage athletes and teens with the following conditions may have a higher risk for amenorrhea (5):

  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders
Eating disorders may cause menstrual irregularities

Image: IStock

  • Thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidismiWhen the thyroid gland does not produce and release enough thyroid hormone into the bloodstream or hyperthyroidismiWhen the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than the body requires
  • Structural defects
protip_icon Point to consider
Teenagers associated with competitive athletics may experience amenorrhea due to low body fat, exercise-related hormones, improper eating, and stress (10) (11).

Complications Of Amenorrhea In Teens

The possible complications of amenorrhea include (6):

  • Infertility: Pregnancy can become difficult or not possible if missed periods are due to a lack of ovulation or specific structural abnormalities.
  • Bone thinning: Missed periods may occur as a result of low levels of estrogeniA sex hormone linked to the female reproductive system hormones. Low estrogen levels may contribute to osteoporosis or thinning of the bones in the long-term.

protip_icon Point to consider
Teenagers may experience psychological stress if they do not get their periods compared to their peers who have regular menstrual patterns (12).

If your teen’s estrogen levels are low,  her doctor may recommend calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis in the future. Due to recent advances in medicine, infertility can be treated with various methods. However, a thorough assessment could help your teen’s healthcare provider to take necessary measures to prevent these complications.

When To See The Doctor?

It is advised to get a medical consultation after your teen’s first period itself. If your teen has irregular periods or missed periods, make an appointment with a gynecologist to identify the cause and take preventive measures if required.

If your teen has any symptoms of thyroid disorders, eating disorders, or stress, seek medical care. You may take a doctor’s advice regarding nutrition and exercises if your teen is an athlete.

If your teen is pregnant, you may seek medical care for the evaluation of both the mother and baby. An early prenatal visit could help reduce the risk of complications associated with teen pregnancy and delivery.

Diagnosis Of Amenorrhea In Teens

Your teen’s doctor may ask about the symptoms and menstrual history of your teen. They may also do a physical examination, including a pelvic exam, to look for any visible abnormalities or signs of conditions that cause amenorrhea.

Amenorrhea is diagnosed in the following scenarios (7):

  • Absence of menarche by the age of 15 years
  • Lack of menstruation for three months or more in a girl with regular cycles
  • Missed menstruation for six months or more in a girl with irregular cycles

The following tests may be ordered to identify the underlying cause of amenorrhea (7):

  • Blood tests: Hormone levels, pregnancy, thyroid disorder
  • Urine analysis: pregnancy and overall health
  • Pelvic ultrasound: Ultrasonographic imaging of the pelvic area can help identify the structural causes of amenorrhea.
A pelvic ultrasound can diagnose the cause of missed periods in teens

Image: IStock

Your teen may also require a few additional tests and consultations to confirm or exclude the diagnosis of possible underlying causes. These tests are usually suggested by your teen’s doctor.

Treatments For Missed Periods In Teens

Treatment depends on the cause of amenorrhea and its severity. The symptoms, health status, and age of your teen are also considered to decide the treatment.

Treatments for missed periods may include (8):

  • ProgesteroneiA hormone produced by the female reproductive system, crucial for maintaining a regular menstrual cycle and pregnancy hormone therapy
  • Hormone therapy using oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Correction of thyroid hormone with hormone supplements or medication
  • Surgeries for structural anomalies
  • Changes in diet and exercise plans
  • Management of eating disorders
  • Calcium supplements

Your teen’s doctor may consider the risks, benefits, and side effects of medicines before prescribing them. Surgical treatments are given in the case of uterine scarring, repairable structural anomalies, and pituitary tumors.

These medications are given based on individual cases, and the type of medicine and dosage may vary for each teen. You should not provide any hormonal or other treatments to your teen without the supervision of a healthcare provider. It may harm their reproductive and general health. 

Prevention Of Missed Periods In Teenagers

A few causes of amenorrhea can be prevented with a specific diet or lifestyle modifications. However, these may not always be the reason for missed periods. Therefore, it is good to see a healthcare provider for guidance (2).

protip_icon Quick tip
Create an environment where your teen can lead a stress-free life, as it can help her have regular menstrual cycles (12).

You may encourage your teen to exercise and follow healthy eating habits from an early age. Do not hesitate to consult a doctor if you notice unusual weight changes, eating disorders, or stress in your teen.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does amenorrhea mean infertility?

There is no research that indicates amenorrhea means infertility. Infertility is among the complications that are observed in women due to amenorrhea. Consult your healthcare provider to diagnose the condition (6).

2. Does amenorrhea go away during teen years?

Amenorrhea usually resolves on its own as the body develops. However, if a teenager has amenorrhea and it persists, it is important to consult a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions (2).

3. Can I exercise if I am diagnosed with amenorrhea?

You can exercise if you have been diagnosed with amenorrhea, but it’s important to do so under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Exercise can help regulate hormones and improve overall health, but excessive or intense exercise can exacerbate the condition. A healthcare professional can help you develop an exercise plan that’s safe and appropriate for your individual needs (10).

Missed periods in teens may be common in the first two years of menstruation and may occur due to obesity, underweight, eating disorders, pituitary tumors, etc. Teenagers with missed periods may experience facial hair, gain or loss in weight, and nausea. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and may include hormone therapy, calcium supplements, diet changes, or surgical interventions. You can prevent missed periods with a healthy diet and regular physical activity in many cases. Additionally, providing appropriate sex education and information on sexual health to teenagers is crucial in preventing unintended teen pregnancies and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Infographic: Can A Diet Cure Amenorrhea In Teen Athletes?

Lack of adequate nutrition may cause cessation of menstruation. Young athletes are more prone to these changes since they utilize most calories they consume. Go through the infographics to learn nutrition tips to practice a healthy diet to prevent amenorrhea and its related

nutritional tips for young athletes with amenorrhea (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Missed periods in teens can result from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, obesity, underweight, exercise, eating disorders, and reproductive issues.
  • Adolescent amenorrhea can lead to consequences such as infertility, psychological stress, and bone thinning.
  • A doctor can diagnose amenorrhea through a pelvic exam, physical examination, menstrual history, and other tests if needed.
  • Timely medical intervention can help to avoid or treat issues associated with amenorrhea.
Missed Period In Teens_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Irregular periods are common in teens and may occur due to several reasons. Discover in this informative video about the causes and treatments for irregular periods in teens.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign; The  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
2. Amenorrhea; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
3. Amenorrhea in teens; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
4. Amenorrhea; American Academy of Family Physicians
5. Amenorrhea in teens; University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC)
6. Amenorrhea; NCH Healthcare System
7. David A. Klein, and Merrily A. Poth; Amenorrhea: An Approach to Diagnosis and Management; American Academy of Family Physicians
8. What are the treatments for amenorrhea?; The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; The National Institutes of Health
9. Irregular Periods; Nemours Teens Health
10. Amenorrhea in Girls and Teens; Children’s Hospital Colorado
11. Menstruation – athletic amenorrhoea; Better Health Channel
12. Amenorrhea; uchealth

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Dr. Thulja Trikamjee is a specialist pediatrician and allergist at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute. She is associated with the World Allergy Organization (WAO) and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).

Read full bio of Dr. Thulja Trikamjee