Hypothalamic amenorrhoea is the medical term for the absence of menstrual periods. It is a common and often misunderstood problem that can have profound effects on both physical and mental wellbeing. In this blog, we’ll delve into what hypothalamic amenorrhoea is, what the symptoms are and what to do if you have it.
I am a registered dietitian and I specialise in eating disorders, so Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea or HA, is a common problem I see in my clinic.
What is Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea?
Hypothalamic amenorrhoea is a condition where the hypothalamus, a crucial part of the brain regulating reproductive functions, signals are disrupted or suppressed, leading to the absence of menstrual periods. This can be triggered by factors such as intense exercise, low body weight, stress, disordered eating, or a combination of these factors.
Symptoms of Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea
Aside from the obvious absence of periods, women experiencing hypothalamic amenorrhoea may notice other symptoms, including changes in energy levels, worsening body image, disruptions in their mental health, and challenges related to overall wellbeing. The hypothalamus is also involved in regulating our bone mineral turnover and therefore HA and low bone density often go hand in hand. Some people first recognise HA as a problem after experiencing a fracture or sports injury.
Why is it a Problem?
The menstrual cycle is not just about fertility, many women I speak to don’t see absent periods as a problem as perhaps they don’t want children, but it’s a vital indicator of overall health. Amenorrhoea can lead to complications such as osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, and an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
Common Myths Surrounding Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea
There are several misconceptions surrounding amenorrhoea, such as the belief that it is normal for athletes to not get periods. It should not be normalised and is a sign of over-training and/or under-fuelling and can hinder sports performance. I like to think that this belief is changing and there have been several campaigns discussing periods in sports.
There is also the belief that it only affects those with anorexia or extreme exercise habits. It can affect women across a spectrum of body sizes and activity levels.
Ways a Dietitian Can Help
Registered dietitians play an important role in the recovery from hypothalamic amenorrhoea. Through personalised nutrition and lifestyle advice, dietitians can help individuals restore energy balance, and establish sustainable eating patterns. Importantly, they address not only the physical aspect but also the mental and emotional components, fostering a positive relationship with food and body. They can also support with HA to boost fertility for those who are trying to conceive or wish to have children in the future.
In the context of eating disorder recovery, dietitians provide crucial support, guiding individuals towards nourishing their bodies and minds. Incorporating self-care practices and promoting a balanced approach to nutrition are integral components of the healing process.
In conclusion, hypothalamic amenorrhoea is a common problem, and it is important that it gets treated and is not seen as ‘normal’. Seeking the guidance of a registered dietitian can help in period recovery.
If you feel you would like to find out more about how support from a dietitian could help, then please reach out. I provide personalised guidance and support to help individuals like you establish a healthy eating and lifestyle routines.
You can book a free call with me below or get in touch with me here.