What are causes of secondary amenorrhea?

Updated: Oct 14, 2019
  • Author: Kristi A Tough DeSapri, MD; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Amenorrhea can be due to pregnancy, anatomic defects of the outflow tract, ovarian disorders, and pituitary or hypothalamic disorders. In some cases, the cause is functional, meaning that the hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) pulse generator has shut down the reproductive system in its role as an integrator of metabolic and psychogenic stress.

Attributing the loss of menstrual regularity to a recent stressful life event is tempting; however, this approach can delay the detection of significant pathology that can have long-term health consequences. One study has shown that one third of women in a control group report a significant stressful life event in the preceding year.

Pregnancy is the most common cause of amenorrhea. Determining whether the patient is sexually active and whether she is using contraceptive methods is important. In some cases, hormonal contraception itself may be the cause of the amenorrhea.

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