Absent menstruation means no menstrual flow, or period. Absent menstruation may be:
Primary -- no menstruation by age 16
Secondary -- menstruation begins at the appropriate age, but later stops for more than 3 cycles or 6 months
Absent menstruation is called amenorrhea.
Missed periods; Lack of menses; Periods - missed; Amenorrhea
Many perfectly healthy females begin to menstruate later than most (the average age is about 13).
Pregnancy is often the first thought when a period is missed, but there are many reasons for having a late period. The rate of primary amenorrhea in the United States is less than 1%. The rate of secondary amenorrhea (due to some cause other than pregnancy) is about 4% in the general population.
Symptoms associated with amenorrhea depend on the cause and may include:
Use of birth control pills and other contraceptives
Uterine scarring, usually from procedures such as dilation and curettage (D and C)
Treatment depends on the cause.
For amenorrhea caused by normal delay of menstruation onset, have patience until age 16. However, keep in mind that the delay is only normal if the girl displays some signs of puberty, such as breast development by age 14.
Call your doctor to determine if you may be pregnant.
A proper diet is recommended for a missed period caused by drastic weight loss or obesity.
If your missed period is the result of too much exercise, cutting back to a more conservative workout program can help.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Your daughter has never had a menstrual period and is 16 or older, or is 14 or older and shows no other signs of puberty
You have previously menstruated but have missed 3 or more periods in a row
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The first step is to rule out pregnancy. This is done with a urine or blood test. (See: Pregnancy test)
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. Questions may include:
Are you a woman presently in a menstruating age range (over 12 and under 55)?
Treatment depends on the cause of the amenorrhea. Your doctor may tell you to make lifestyle changes if the absent menstruation is due to weight changes, physical activity, or stress level. If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome or athletic amenorrhea, you may be given hormonal medications or birth control pills to treat the problem.
If the absent menstruation is caused by a bodywide (systemic) disorder, normal menstrual function usually returns after the primary disorder is treated. For example, if your period stopped because of a thyroid disorder, it will usually return once you start thryoid treatment.
Young women with primary amenorrhea that is caused by birth defects may require medicine, surgery, or both. In any case, psychosocial support and counseling for the patient and family is necessary to address specific concerns and provide guidance regarding anticipated sexual development.
Master-Hunter T, Heiman DL. Amenorrhea: evaluation and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73:1374-1382.
David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.