Anovulation is the medical term for “absence of ovulation”, which means that the ovaries fail to release an egg each month or each menstrual cycle. Bleeding does not necessarily stop in this instance but it can result in irregular periods, or spotting. Sometimes, however, it will result in complete absence of the period.
Amenorrhea is the medical term for “absence of the menstrual period”, and can be diagnosed in primary or secondary form. Primary amenorrhea refers to the condition when a woman fails to menstruate by the age of 16, or two years after puberty has ended, and secondary amenorrhea refers to when a woman's periods come to an end after she has started them. Periods usually have to have been absent for 3-6 months before concluding it is secondary amenorrhea.
Anovulation is also the result of hormonal imbalance within the body. Estrogen and progesterone trigger the reproductive cycle, so when these hormones become thrown off course it can cause anovulation to occur. Quite regularly in this condition estrogen will still be produced by the ovaries, but progesterone won't, because this usually happens after ovulation.
Amenorrhea is caused by a hormone imbalance. Hormones become unbalanced by environmental factors and your menstrual cycle can easily be affected by this. Environmental triggers include: stress, rapid weight loss or gain, poor nutrition and diet, extreme exercise, and illness. These can all cause insufficient production of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which will then stop the menstrual cycle from taking place. It is the pituitary gland system in the brain that regulates the production of the sex hormones, so when environmental stressors put pressure on this system it can cause hormone production to decrease.
Amenorrhea can also be caused by medication, including the birth control pill, thyroid and other hormonal disorders, complete failure of the ovaries or tumors on the ovaries or pituitary gland, although these causes are far less common.
Remember that amenorrhea is extremely common and normal during pregnancy and menopause.
Usually, most cases of amenorrhea are anovulatory. It is easier to explain anovulatory amenorrhea if we first explain a normal menstrual cycle. In a normal cycle, the pituitary gland produces the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and this stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen. The estrogen then stimulates the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, to proliferate. After ovulation, the release of the egg, progesterone is produced to prepare the lining of the uterus for egg implantation. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone production decreases and the lining breaks down, causing bleeding from the vagina.
Anovulatory amenorrhea occurs if part of this system fails and ovulatory dysfunction occurs. If environmental triggers cause the pituitary gland to malfunction then estrogen levels will be extremely low. This means the lining of the uterus does not expand as much, no ovulation occurs, resulting in less progesterone and no bleeding.
Yes, amenorrhea can occur even if ovulation is normal. It is more commonly linked with primary amenorrhea. It usually means that there is a genital anatomical abnormality which prevents normal menstruation despite normal hormone levels.
Hormones play such a vital role in the body and have such an impact on our menstrual cycle, that if they become unbalanced it is no wonder that the body reacts in strange ways. If you think you might be suffering from amenorrhea, it is important you go and see your doctor so that the cause can be determined quickly. Fortunately, there are treatments for this disorder and it is usually a temporary problem. Click on the link below to learn more about natural hormones.
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