I realized just recently that when I started sharing my hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery journey, I actually never got into details and explained how do you really know that you have it. So, in today’s post I tell you what you can do yourself to figure out if you may have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Once I figured out that I have hypothalamic amenorrhea, I started reading everything and anything I got into my hands about that topic. Blog posts, experiences, books… This book is probably the best resource out there, covering everything from explaining the condition to how to recover from it to getting pregnant after your period has returned.
When my friends and also people on the Internet started asking me what the heck this hypo-thaa-thing was, I was really surprised. How can it be that they have never heard of it?
Well, of course they haven’t, if they have never heard of this condition and haven’t read a million articles about it.
But there were also women who reached out and said that they were experiencing the same thing, but they had no idea that they should be worried about it.
Did Your Doctor Tell You This?
Some of the common questions I got were, “How do you know that you have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Did your doctor run tests? What do you test anyway?”
Well, I was never formally diagnosed with this. If you think back to your workout history and eating habits, you may be easily able to “diagnose” your hypothalamic amenorrhea yourself. You may not need a doctor to tell you what you may already know.
Western medicine is awesome in many ways, but unfortunately telling you what the right thing is to do in a situation where your period has been missing for months or years, is not our doctors’ strongest suit. I may be overgeneralizing here, because of course not all doctors are the same, but having heard from so many girls their doctors’ responses, it’s clear that they may not know what it really is.
Here are some things that your doctor may tell you when you tell him that your period went missing and that you think you may have hypothalamic amenorrhea:
- You aren’t thin enough to have hypothalamic amenorrhea! (Be smarter: You can have HA also when you are within the “normal” BMI range – that was my case!)
- We’ll put you on birth control pill to “regulate your hormones” (Be smarter: Wait, you mean, shut them down completely?)
- There’s no need to worry if you don’t want to have babies just yet, just come back when pregnancy is in your radar! (Know this: You do have to worry about it, even if you never want babies).
Your doctor may run some useful tests to check your hormone levels, which may give you some really good information. But you can begin figuring out what’s going on with you, by answering some questions about your lifestyle.
How Do You Know You Have It – Without Your Doctor Telling You
If your period is missing, ask yourself,
- Have I ever lost at least 10 lbs from my bodyweight? According to this book, even if you lost this amount in the past, you may have hypothalamic amenorrhea
- Do I exercise, or have I exercised excessively in the past? Note that what may not seem excessive to you, may actually be excessive
- Do I limit, or have I limited my food intake by counting calories and / or macros, weighing and measuring foods, or restricting my food intake in some other ways?
- Is my BMI around 19 or less than that? You can calculate it here. IMPORTANT: Your BMI can well be within the “healthy” range, but you may still have hypothalamic amenorrhea. I was like that – my BMI was 22.1. It’s just more likely for those whose BMI is at the lower end of what’s considered “heatlhy” or “normal” BMI, to have HA.
- Am I often stressed out?
- Do I have a tendency to try different diets, eliminate food groups or find other ways to lose weight or fat?
- Do I weigh myself often and exercise a lot / eat less to lose or maintain a certain weight?
- Am I often cold?
- Am I exhausted all the time?
- Is it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep?
- Is my digestion poor?
- Where the heck did my libido go?
If you answered YES to first three or four questions and your period is missing, then chances that you have hypothalamic amenorrhea are pretty good. And if you answered YES to these four, you very likely answered YES to most of the other ones anyway.
What Can You Do About It?
The things you can do to fix this situation are really simple. I didn’t say they’re easy… But give it your best and get to work, if your health matters to you.
First, you need to stop or reduce exercising. Keep it very minimal. No, cutting your weekly running miles from 60 to 30 isn’t probably going to cut it. Stick with walking and yoga instead, if you want to get your period back as fast as possible.
To recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea, you need to stop or significantly reduce exercising.Click to tweet
Second, you have to convince your body that it’s safe by giving it a ton of food. The reason why it shuts down many of your functions, like fertility, digestion, libido etc is that it doesn’t have enough resources, so it has to pick. There are other things on the top of the list that it takes care of first, which I talk more about here.
Third, you have to relax. Stop running around like a madwoman. Stop trying to turn every activity into a workout. Say no. Ask help. Reduce your work load if possible. You have to send a signal to your body that it’s okay, there’s no lion chasing you, we’re actually laying down right now and reading a book, so chill!
You don’t necessarily need your doctor to confirm you that yes, you really have hypothalamic amenorrhea. Say no to birth control pill if that’s what he suggests, and don’t ignore the problem even if he tells you that you’re too young to worry about it.
Sit down with yourself and be honest like you would be with your best friend. It’s time to stop hiding your head in the sand.
If your period is missing, ask yourself: Have food and exercise occupied my life and my mind for a while?
The answer to the question–do you really have hypothalamic amenorrhea–is probably right there.