Period restoration in Recovery.

On the first of March 2019, I experienced period restoration after six months of it being absent. To say that I felt panic and overwhelming guilt would be an understatement at best.

How does sudden period restoration impact on recovery, and how can it be rationalised?

According to my Clue app, prior to March, the last time I had my period was September 2018. At first I was concerned I was pregnant, then I was concerned it was a growth in the tumor, and my final conclusion was stress. I brushed it off and carried on with my life without giving it a second thought. Life itself was chaotic, I’m not denying that, but I just didn’t care enough about myself to change that.

The stress grew and grew until something clicked in me and I bought my first scale in over six years. The rest, as they say, is history.


Impromptu Period Restoration;

On the first of March 2019, I experienced period restoration after six months of it being absent. To say that I felt panic and overwhelming guilt would be an understatement at best.

I’d lived without giving my period much thought, too busy with recovery and crying myself to sleep at night. That is until I awoke to severe cramps and spotting early one Tuesday morning.

Regaining my period was meant to be a good sign. My body was healing and non-essentials (like my menstrual cycle) were back on the table as far as my hypothalamus was concerned.

That’s what you would think, but anorexia had other ideas.

“You have your period back now. You’ve gained back enough weight/fat now. You can stop.”

“You maybe need to cut down on the food now. You don’t want to overshoot.” 

It’s too early. We’re not ready. Abort mission!

I thought this was just spotting, so I picked myself up and moved on. But upon waking up the next morning I quickly realised that this was a full-blown ‘Carry’ situation. My heart sank further. I ended up doing the only thing I could do in a situation like this; I cried.

Image by Oleg Magni.

Why do we lose our periods when underweight? 

Why is period restoration needed in the first place? Surely once we hit puberty we’re stuck with our menstrual cycle for life no matter what our body goes through? Isn’t that the curse that all women are plagued with?

Let’s step back a minute and talk about what happens to the female body when menstruation is absent due to malnutrition.

There are two types of amenorrhea;

  • Primary amenorrhea occurs when a young girl fails to have a period by the age of sixteen.
  • Secondary amenorrhea occurs when the period in a previously menstruating woman has been absent for over three months.

Amenorrhea is often seen in women with eating disorders due to extreme weight loss and starvation. Without adequate nutrition, a woman’s body doesn’t have enough energy to work correctly. Therefore, the body starts to prioritize essential over non-essential functions. The reproductive system usually doesn’t make the cut, and the period disappears.

The hormone center of our brain’s (the hypothalamus) can also suffer significantly. This results in the deregulation of many hormones, including estrogen, further contributing to the loss of the menstrual cycle.

In the past amenorrhea was essential in the diagnoses of Anorexia Nervosa. However, this has since been changed as many women with low body weights can still menstruate**. It was also scrapped because amenorrhea failed to take into account the diagnoses of men, young girls of prepubertal age, those on certain contraceptives and those of menopausal age.

**With further reading, I was surprised to learn that even women with very low body weights can still have a period. Some people continue to have them as normal while others can get prolonged periods (this is called oligomenorrhea) which last thirty days or longer.Links for more information can be found here & here.**

What impact does this have on the body?

The period acts as an indicator for our health and it’s absence isn’t something that should be taken very lightly. It’s our bodies way of telling us that it can’t sustain itself and, as a result, can’t function normally.    

Amenorrhea in a woman of child-bearing age due to starvation has a number of consequences, some of which can be reversed come recovery but not in all circumstances.

Infertility;
You can’t look after yourself, so you can’t grow something in your womb. End off.

While experiencing amenorrhea the body isn’t able to sustain a child, therefore increasing the chance of infertility. Whether this can be reversed changes from woman to woman, however the quicker it’s restored the higher chance that the woman will become fertile once again.

The longer a period is absent, the more likely it is that she might never conceive or that she might need help conceiving.

Please note; that just because you are not experiencing a period does not necessarily mean you are unable to conceive.

The development of pre-menopause symptoms;

This is directly linked to the loss of estrogen levels and hormonal imbalances.

Osteopenia;

Amenorrhea leads to the depletion of the calcium reserves in our bones. Estrogen has a direct link to this and, as previously mentioned, without the period the levels of this hormone are reduced. Without it, women are unable to maintain calcium resulting in osteopenia.

This is when there is a thinning of the bone mass and is considered to be the early stages of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease).


So, what now?

The reappearance of the missing link to my womanhood has left me shaken. But through reading about it and understanding a bit more about how my body works, I can begin to see the bigger picture.  

  • I know now that this doesn’t mean I can stop gaining weight.
  • I can’t start running marathons, swimming, hiking or doing any form of strenuous exercise.
  • It does not mean I have put on large reserves of fat.
  • It does not mean I need to restrict again.

It does mean that I am moving in the right direction and that the front is finally being pushed back against the enemy.

I’m still going to cry about it though (probably).

** If you like what I do please consider donating to my KO- FI fund. I’d like to be able to reach more of an audience so I can potentially grow this blog to be much more than it currently is. I also hope to bring freebies and eventually toolkits to you all as a way of saying thank you for your support.

Image by The Collab.

94 comments

  1. Holly moly girl. What a candid story. You sharing it is going to help someone going through the same struggles and not knowing what to do about it. Thanks for sharing with uf

  2. As someone who is in ED recovery, I can tell you that you are DEFINITELY moving in the right direction. Stay strong!

  3. There are many things we go through as women and I love to encounter articles like that. When we see the story of a lovely woman like you being brave it uplifts the spirits of the rest of our lot.

  4. Such a wonderful blog post. You wrote honest and from the heart. Praying that all is well with you now.

  5. I love you sharing this personal story as it is for sure going to helpful for others dealing with the same. I am happy for you and hope all is well πŸ™‚

  6. You’re perfectly entitled to cry, I do most months. But I’m so pleased that you recognise that your recovery is going the right way.

    Thank you for sharing so honestly x

  7. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I’ve never seen my period as a good thing at all, even when i was healthy and well. It’s always been more of a curse than anything. But it can be very hard to overcome that thought when you know your body NEEDS it in order to be 100% healthy. x

  8. This was such a great post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I stopped having my period after suffering from an eating disorder, and it was such a shock when I was in recovery and finally got it back. I saw it as a good sign, but I know this isn’t the same for everyone with an eating disorder. I’m sorry you’re struggling with it, but I’m glad you can see it as a good thing, even if it feels wrong and is leading to negative thoughts. Be strong, girl! You’re doing great <3

    Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

  9. Thank you for sharing your story so that others might learn from it. This is a subject that many who experience it are afraid to speak of it. Crying is ok. It washes clean the wounds. Wishing you all the best!

  10. Thank you very much Jenny. I actually didn’t have a period for over 3 years during my teenage years despite having it since a very young age. I didn’t care much then, nor do I really now, but I know I would be kicking myself in the future if I ever wanted kids.

  11. What a personal story to have so willingly shared! I find writing about my problems is once of the best ways I come to terms with them and I love that you have written about yours in such a way it can be helpful to others. Sending hugs and all my best!

  12. What a scary and difficult journey for you! I’m so sorry, life is stressful, and this additional struggle with food can be overwhelming. I wish you well in recovery, that you may get to a calm and peaceful place where food is a source of nourishment and joy. All my best.

  13. Really informative post. I knew that people who suffer with anorexia can sometimes stop having periods but I didn’t know much of the “whys” behind it, so thank you for educating me. Good luck on your continued recovery x

  14. Thank you very much for reading pet. Mine were like that for years, on and off. We put it down to stress and the pitutiary cyst. But the last few months since March they’ve been very heavy and sometimes absent altogether. The joys of recovery!

  15. I experienced this at uni. My periods were all over the place because I was so stressed and wasn’t eating properly. Lovely read x

  16. Oh no, logic is nowhere on the radar! Thank you so much for stopping by Britt – always a pleasure seeing you in my comment box πŸ˜€

  17. I remember going through this moment when I was recovering and the mixed feelings that came with it. The logical side of my brain understood that getting my period back was a good thing, as it was a sign of better health, but we know that our illness isn’t driven by logic!

  18. Just read this, and was a great post.

    I had primary amenorrhea as my periods did not start til I left school at 17. I was very underweight. I nearly had a secondary amenorrhea due to extreme stress of last year where I had no period for two months.Β Definately was not pregnancy and my periods started again like normal, after those two months. Weird!? But I think stress plays a huge part.

    I also have PMDD and it sucks big time!

  19. To be fair I was taught very little about women’s health while in school. I was taught to use a tampon / sanitary pad when needed and to not say anything because boys don’t want to hear that.

    In reality womens health is a big thing – we are so complex down there! There is so much going on in our brains that can have an impact hormonoally.

    It’s only really now that I am realising just what I am doing to my body by starving it.

  20. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment πŸ™‚ It’s amazing how much we don’t know about our own anatomy sometimes!

  21. Best of luck in your recovery, and thank you for sharing your journey. I learned a lot from reading this – I’d never heard of osteopenia before, for a start. Really interesting and insightful post!

    Rhianna x

  22. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave me a comment. I often feel like I am going about recovery wrong so thank you for your kind words πŸ™‚

  23. This was really interesting to read. I’m glad you are managing to come to terms with your period re-starting, and I wish you all the best in your recovery!

  24. This is amazing!! I’m so happy for you and you’re doing so so well. I’ve suffered from an ED so I know how hard it is to ignore the voice in your head when you’re making progress but keep going ???? you’re definitely going in the right direction

  25. I am floored by the power of your words. I find that most people view their pets as children of sorts. If I may paraphrase:

    β€œI would never allow my children to starve. What gives me the right to starve myself?”

    I have chills. These words are so incredibly important. I wish I could slow my thoughts enough to apply them to my own situation somehow. Perhaps I have more control than I think I do over the day’s anxiety in perpetuity.

    Or maybe today is just going to be more difficult. Life is like that sometimes.

  26. You haven’t been offensive at all. Don’t worry πŸ™‚

    We all too often forget to be kind to ourselves and to treat ourselves like we would want others to be treated. I wouldn’t like seeing my cat starve,so what right do I have to do that to myself then?

    πŸ™‚

  27. Ah, I don’t mean to undermine your recovery. I’ve no experience (whether personal or anecdotal) with eating disorders. Please let me know if I’ve been insensitive. I am always seeking to learn new ways to express compassion and sensitivity. Though I’ve illnesses of my own, I am treading in unknown waters here. Kindness was the main point I wanted to make. Kindness, and perhaps now a more careful application of words.

    Cheers, love.
    ~Adeline

    By the way, top notch information. I didn’t follow the links yet, but I may just do so later if I can spare the mental space. (Time is not the issue)

  28. I often worry about my “jelly belly” as I call it. I went to see a doctor yesterday over something that had been troubling me (Not dying. Yay!), and when they weighed me, I was only 156 lbs.

    I’m somewhere around 5’10”, so that’s not bad at all. I’m just a bit fluffy, I guess. I can’t tell you to just “not worry about it”, but I do hope you will allow your body to be nourished. Right now I’m craving hugs and kisses. I’ll figure that out somehow. But if your body is craving food and nutrition, well, eat healthy and remember to be kind to yourself, even if the sight of a fuller silhouette is frightening.

    I guess that second part applies to everyone: Remembering to be kind. I swear, ‘kindness’ is like a buzzword for me now. It’s the most used word in my vocabulary. I feel euphoric when people describe me as such.

    But there are so many people who forget such a basic courtesy – especially in their own direction. A little kindness goes a long, long way. Where there is kindness, love will follow.

    ~ Adeline

  29. It seems I am moved to tears easily these days, but once again I find myself weeping for a very human pain and fear. I have never had the privilege (nor the hellish recurring pains) of a menstrual cycle, but I very much understand the importance of hormone regulation to mental health.

    As heartbroken as I am to be shared even a glimpse of your pain, I am infinitely relieved to find that you are in the process of healing. In your moments of suffering, I wonder if you can remember to ask: “May I be kind to myself?”

    This was the single most transformative question a doctor has ever asked me. Be well, dear friend. May we be kind to ourselves in our moments of suffering. I wish you safety, health, and happiness on your road to recovery and whatever lies beyond it.

    ~ Adeline

  30. I am terrible in that I never cared if I had it or not during this illness. In fact I preferred not to but from doing more research the consequences of not having my period at my age is far worse!

  31. Ohh that is way too long for 6months! Glad you are okay now. I would worry if it happens to me.

  32. So much of this I had no idea about , thank you for sharing this !!
    Sincerelee Ni | SincereleeNi.com

  33. For someone who struggles with the problem in menstrual cycle, this is such an informative post. Definitely worth reading and sharing.

  34. This was awesome and great info, I suffer from PCOS and have a period maybe 3 a Year. Thank you so much for sharing!

  35. Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like you have a lot to deal with and I hope life gets easier for you soon.

  36. This is something that is still considered i would say a taboo, although i don’t see why not, it’s a normal cycle and it should be widely known, you provided an excellent article πŸ˜€

  37. such a informative post and i also respect you for sharing your story. today i learned something new.

  38. This is so informative. I did not realize they used to use amorrhea as a diagnostic symptom for Anorexia.

  39. I knew that some women had similar issues, but I didn’t know too much about it before reading this. Great post!

  40. I am a 77-year-old lady, and it is incredible some of the illnesses and issues we go through. I have never had anything like you and so I too appreciate you being brave enough to share about it. We women do need to share more. When I was 17, I had to have an ovary removed because a tumor was strangling it and my appendix. I was terrified, and no one explained anything to me. Then when I had my first child (and apparently I was pregnant when I had the first surgery, the doctors thought it was too early for me to have the child, so they kept me in the hospital right across from the delivery room, and the door to that was open the whole time. I once again knew nothing, and once again was terrified. I had gotten married early to avoid further childhood abuse, so in a lot of ways, I was still a child. Then when I was 74, I had cancer of the breast, and once again I was terrified. This time I had a lot of women to talk to, but they all had different thoughts about how to deal with it, whether to get radiation and chemo, etc., and it was then that I realized that each of us deal even with the same illnesses differently, so we absolutely need to talk with as many other women who have the same types of things as we can. Today I look online and read every pro and con, and when I go to the oncologist, I talk to every woman in the waiting room. Never thought of doing that before, but when I do, it is amazing how many of us with the same types of illnesses have that different something about it and they too are scared, so it is good for us to talk as much as we can about these things.

    I am so glad we are women because women are not afraid to talk. Some men are the same, but most of them have grown up learning it is not ok to let on that you are scared, and it is definitely not OK to talk. My significant other has a lot of issues physical and mental from being a foster child in nine different homes from age 7 – 11 with his sisters and brothers, so he writes everything he feels off. But I see him suffering more from that than any of us will suffer from being able to get it out there and realizing we are not alone, even if we all have different forms of the same thing.

    You know, I thought of something. This stuff takes so long to get written up by individuals who suffer with any of it because the doctors have to wait to gather a “controlled group,” so I am wondering if perhaps continuing not only to blog about it, but add your thoughts and feelings since you first knew what you had – how it was discovered, what your doctor(s) told you, the different ways you were treated for it, and the ways your body responded, and any other things you have learned along the way on your own perhaps. You write like a highly intelligent woman, and I am not kidding, this is critical knowledge for other women who might be facing or ultimately will face the same kind of issues. When more research is done (if it is), it can be invaluable for those who are doing it because they will have some kind of marker starting out. I am truly sorry that you are having to face something like this. Thank you for being so brave to share it. It is very hard to share a lot of these issues we have or grow up with. Awhile back I made a decision to share some of my childhood abuse on my blog, not because I want people to feel sorry for me (just as I am sure you do not either) because people who are just beginning to suffer from these things or bullying, or those who will in the future need to know they are not alone. These things we deal with are critical because it may prevent someone from committing suicide if they have to deal with an illness as you are and have nowhere to turn for support and good information. Thank you truly so much for being willing to share. I cannot help but admire you and appreciate any effort you are putting into it. Anne P.S. If my photo doesn’t show up, I am trying to help a friend with her blog too as she is disabled, and it kept putting my photo on her site, so I had to get rid of it. Haven’t figured out how to change that yet.

  41. what a great, informative article! I have never heard of this before so thank you for sharing!

  42. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Even if we don’t see the difference in our young years of dealing with these issues it will help the younger generations of dealing with less of a stigma. It’s a very brave thing to do, and you are a hero for little faces you will never meet.

    On another topic, I know it’s far from the same, but I experienced something kind of similar when I was abusing opiates before recovery. I had become so small from using that I hadn’t gotten my period for months. It was a strange feeling, for me. To know my addiction was effecting my body THAT much, and not having the will power to do anything about it. The pull was just to strong.

    Congrats on your recovery girl, I know you know your doing the right thing so I won’t get into it. Much love from afar

  43. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I don’t mind sharing stuff like this. We are conditioned to be ashamed of our periods or anything that makes us women but I think it should be a topic talked about more often.

  44. Hi! Thank you for reading this.

    I have received 0 treatment for my high prolactin levels. Nothing. Only check ups once a year and MRI’s every 2 years. That’s it.
    Even though I have been told that it will be difficult to get pregnant etc they still refuse to do anything until it begins to grow or my symptoms grow worse.

    It’s so crazy that when I try to tell people about it they just don’t understand. With the prolactinoma my prolactin is sky high all the time, I’m exhausted, I have to constantly watch my periods, I have to get my eyes checked annually and I do suffer from minor headaches.

    I’m so glad, in a weird way, to hear I’m not alone as well because I have never met anyone else with prolactin issues. Most people don’t even know what it is!

    xx

  45. Wow, I absolutely love that you shared this post.
    I don’t have a prolactinoma but have a craniophyrngioma (benign pituitary tumor) so have pituitary stalk effect, which causes an increase in prolactin production….even though all other hormones are not produced. So I have struggled with amenorrhea my entire life.

    Just out of curiosity, have they ever put you on Cabergoline (dostinex)?

    I’m on that for the excess prolactin production
    to get it ti normal levels and birth control as a form of HRT for the lack of estrogen production, due to the concern of osteopenia….and other synthetic hormones for the other ones I can’t produce.

    This just makes me feel like I’m not alone out there with my crazy issues!! ❀

  46. Thank you for your comment. I am still struggling with the concept that weight gain isn’t that bad but I’m getting there. 1 day at a time.

    x

  47. Thank you for sharing this, I know the feeling. It feels like weight gain is the scariest thing in the world, but I always remind myself how horrible constant headaches, feeling faint all the time, and the lack of energy that came with my ED was. Best of luck in recovery ❀️

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