It’s time for another hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery story. I hope you find these stories inspiring and that they help you to stay on track with your own recovery.
The goal of these stories is to keep you on your recovery track and working towards your prize – your period and your health! If you missed the earlier amenorrhea recovery stories, you can find them here:
Lindsay: “There’s Now More Freedom In My Life!”
Brandi: “It Wasn’t As Scary As I Thought.”
Christina: “If You’re Obsessed with Exercise, Give It Up. Now!”
Jill: “Running 50+ Miles in the Weekend in Addition to Weekly Mileage Wasn’t Smart For Me.”
Amy: “I Was Sick of Feeling Anxious, Tired, Irritable and Having No Libido.”
Today’s story is from Anna. Anna is the first mom who has shared her story on the blog! So if you have hypothalamic amenorrhea and you really want to have kids, there’s nothing more inspiring than learning form someone who knows exactly how you feel.
Before we hear more about Anna’s story, here are some facts about her hypothalamic amenorrhea and recovery:
- She had hypothalamic amenorrhea probably for a few years, but since she was on birth control for a portion of the time, she didn’t realize her period was MIA until she went off the pill in May 2013.
- Time it took to recover: She made slight lifestyle changes over a few months (September 2014 through April 2015), but it wasn’t until she fully committed to recovery in Summer 2015. Once she did that, her period returned in August 2015.
- Her BMI went from 20 to 23. When her BMI was 20, she was working out 6 days a week for 30-45 minutes a day. Once her BMI was 23, her cycle returned and she was able to get pregnant.
- She was able to conceive in just a few months after she got her period back. 1.5 months after her period returned, she saw her RE who did some blood work and an ultrasound, which showed that she still hadn’t ovulated yet – but was close. They did one low dose round with a fertility medication and she fell pregnant with her son, Jack.
Now, back to the beginning of the story…
When did you first find out that you had hypothalamic amenorrhea?
In summer 2014, a few months after I had stopped birth control, I didn’t get a period. I was so confused but my Primary Care Dr told me it was post pill amenorrhea and that my body would just take a bit of time to bounce back.
After a few more months without a period I went back in and they told me I could try the progesterone challenge to (hopefully) get a withdrawal bleed. I failed that challenge; no bleed. I told them about my workouts and “healthy” eating – and they encouraged me to continue to follow the same workout and food regimen since it sounded “perfect”.
Mid Fall 2014 I did some research about amenorrhea and came across hypothalamic amenorrhea and it resonated so deeply within me… its like I found the answer (but was not diagnosed at this point).
After one more appointment with my Primary Care Dr, they finally referred me to a Fertility Clinic where test after test after test was done (all the while I was working on cutting workouts and gaining weight and stressing less).
In May 2015 I was officially diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea through my RE at the Fertility Clinic. I had my answer, and I knew I would beat it.
What was your training like at the peak of your hypothalamic amenorrhea?
I worked out ~6 days a week for a total of 30-45 minutes a day. I know that doesn’t sound like much but it was ALL ‘HIIT’ (High Intensity Interval Training) or running on the treadmill. Sometimes I would do Taebo or T25 style workouts, but rarely would I ever workout more than 45 minutes.
Working out 30-45 minutes may not sound much, but for me it was enough to have hypothalamic amenorrhea.Click to tweet
Did you ever restrict foods, counted calories or tried different diets?
Yes, I counted calories and cut out a few food groups (like fats and meats). I’ve been gluten free for 6 years but that doesn’t have anything to do with my hypothalamic amenorrhea. I also didn’t eat many carbs for a while…
Most of my “diet” was light yogurt, eggs, tons of veggies, fruit, air popped popcorn, anything light or low-fat I thought was “better” for me (head bang).
I should also point out that when I’d track my calories, I would always get up to 1800/day. For some people, that’s totally normal… just like working out 30-45 minutes a day. But my body must have no wanted, or needed, that.
Was there any point in your life where you lost a significant amount of weight?
I lost almost 30 pounds over the course of 3 years between the ages of 21 and 24.
I cut out drinking, I started eating “healthier” (or so I thought), and started working out more. It was VERY gradual, no obsession started at that point; I went from 150(ish) to 120(ish) pounds.
I didn’t partake on my journey with hypothalamic amenorrhea until a year or two after this, as I believe most of my HA was stemmed from extreme stress and anxiety due to many life events (between 2013-2014) where I then turned to cutting out more food groups and then only doing HIIT workouts.
My control freak-type A-perfectionist tendencies came out and when my life felt out of control, I knew I could control my workouts and my food.
What was your main reason to start recovery?
To be a Mom, and to truly love myself and be (physically, mentally and emotionally) healthy.
Once you found out that you need to quit / reduce exercise and up your calories, what was your reaction? Did you get to work on this right away or tried something else instead?
I did this gradually. At first I was in denial… I had spent years getting this body I had and now I had to give it up?! There were tons of women who worked out harder, longer, than I did – and eat far less than I did… yet they were cycling and getting pregnant.
It didn’t make sense. BUT then I realized that hypothalamic amenorrhea doesn’t pick the type of person its going to affect. Us HA-ers come in various shapes and sizes and my body is one of those bodies that wanted, and needed, a little extra (meat) on its bones.
I slowly started cutting workouts and increasing my food intake – then over a few more months I would cut down more workouts and added more food, eventually putting on almost 20 lbs. I ended up stopping all forms of working out (except two 20 minute barre videos a week) when summer 2015 came around… and my period returned August 2015.
Tell us a few examples on how you changed your eating.
I wanted to eat peanut butter ALL THE TIME. And avocado. And whole eggs (not just the whites). And full fat yogurt. Its like my body was being deprived of fats for so long it just wanted EVERYTHING.
And that’s what I gave it. I would polish off a jar of peanut butter in days. At first this was hard. I tried fighting it – not giving in to what my body was craving (and needing!) – but eventually intuitive eating came into play and I just ate what I wanted, when I wanted it. It was a beautiful, beautiful, thing – when that began.
What was your biggest fear about gaining weight?
My biggest fear was simply that – just GAINING the weight back. I had changed my life around, found “health” (again, or so I thought) – and now I had to buy all new clothes and get uncomfortable again.
I was also afraid that I wouldn’t “look” healthy anymore. Seriously I laugh out loud thinking about the way I initially reacted – but its true.
Now I laugh out loud thinking about the way I initially reacted, when I heard that I have to gain weight.Click to tweet
Did anyone notice your changed body and did you ever get curious comments or questions about it?
The only people that ever said something or noticed were a few close family members. I had to make sure they understand how delicate the subject was, and to not comment about my body (or anyone else’s, for that matter).
Was there anything else you did to speed up recovery: supplements, acupuncture….?
I tried acupuncture once but didn’t enjoy it. That was it. Otherwise I wanted to try to do this as naturally as possible.
And then you became pregnant! Tell us about that.
1.5 months after my first period I did a low dose treatment which included 7 days of Menopur to help my body produce a follicle(s).
I went back in the middle of that trial and to their surprise, my body was responding beautifully, it had built a thick uterine lining and created one perfect follicle. We did timed intercourse at home, along with the ovulation trigger shot – and 2 weeks later… bloodwork confirmed we were pregnant with our miracle.
I understand that not everyone experiences their first bout of treatment to work (if they go that route) and I know how lucky we are that this happened for us.
However, I have NO doubt in my mind that treatment would not have worked if I still wasn’t keeping up with no exercise, eating a lot, and being at a higher weight (with less stress, I might add!).
Now as you’re recovered, has anything changed in your personality too?
Yes. I am finally the person I always wanted to be. The person that was inside me all along, but I never really knew it. I have never been so happy, so fulfilled, so thankful.
Now as I’m recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea, I am finally the person I always wanted to be.Click to tweet
What were the most helpful things that helped you recover (both physiologically and mentally / emotionally)?
Thinking about my goal…. my WHY…. My reason for wanting to beat hypothalamic amenorrhea was because I knew I was meant to be a Mother. Throughout my journey, that reason did hold true.
However, it ended up changing a bit. Meaning this: I realized I HAD to recover, not only for my future children, but for MYSELF. I needed to be the best, most present, ME for my future children.
I needed to learn to love myself before I could show that love to my children. I needed to learn how to show myself grace, patience, trust – all before becoming a parent. For that, I am truly grateful. I am SO thankful that I fully recovered before my sweet boy arrived.
The biggest lesson you learned from this journey?
Our bodies are smart. So smart. We only have ONE body in our lifetime. We need to show it love, we need to nourish it, we need to respect it. In turn, it should do the same thing back to us.
Also – a few pounds are NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. Looking back, I would have gained 30, 40, 50+ if that meant finding my true health and where my body needed and wanted to be. Because through all of this, I found my happiness; my son.
Thank you for sharing your story Anna!
PS: If you too are suffering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and want to beat it (you should!), the 5-Step Overtraining Rehab Program can help you.