My journey has been a bit of a roller coaster.
I started birth control in March 2013 and went off in January 2015 (the last couple periods on BC were super light). I didn’t get a period in February or March but figured I was adjusting post-pill. Then I had periods in April and May, but that’s when it ended.
At the end of August, 4 months since my last period, I went to the gyno and discussed my lack of period. She suspected PCOS (though acknowledged that I didn’t fit the “type”) and ran some blood tests to check my testosterone levels, as well as a sonogram to check my ovaries. My ovaries looked fine and my testosterone levels were low, so she ruled out PCOS. She prescribed the progesterone challenge, to which I had no reaction so she checked my estrogen and FSH levels. Across the board my hormone levels were low; everything was on “sleep” mode. Her only recommendation was to go back on BC “to get regular” (which didn’t make sense since I just came off BC so by that logic I should be regular…) or visit a fertility specialist which personally I wasn’t ready for. That was the beginning of October 2015.
From the beginning of our appointments, she asked about my diet and exercise and concluded that since I was not a marathoner or doing anything extreme that diet/exercise wasn’t the cause. I was also in the normal/healthy range of BMI (5’8 135lbs) so didn’t think that was an issue, but she said if I felt like it I could try putting on 5lbs and tone down the workouts (approx 4-5 times a week for max 1 hr each mixing it up with body pump, spin, running, body step…nothing EXTREME).
In November, I happened to have a deal for a month of unlimited barre so during that month I only did barre (no cardio) and my weight crept up to about 140. On December 22nd, I got a period!
After that I went back to my original workout schedule and again lost my period.
In March, I went back to the gyno, and she said we should try the progesterone challenge again, and if I get a period then I could try a round of clomid to force ovulation; no period came. After 5 months since my last cycle, I decided to try acupuncture at the end of May. My acupuncturist believed I was dealing with post pill amenorrhea. With weekly visits and daily herbs I was able to ovulate and have a period in June (though the luteal phase was extremely short).
Even with an absurd amount of googling over the past 1.5 years, I didn’t stumble upon the term “hypothalamic amenorrhea” until last month.
And finally I was reading some stories that “sounded like me”.
I was never too thin but I did spend a lot of time planning out my workouts and putting in extra effort when I over indulged on the food side of things. If I had to guess what threw me into this funk it was probably the period of time in April/May 2015 where I was working out probably 6 times a week with crossfit being 3xs a week and restricting my calories to about 1400. If only I knew that that would not only hinder my body goals, but also lose my fertility.
In mid-August, I decided to prioritize my desire to get back my cycle/pregnant over my desire to stay a certain level of fit. The hardest part has been getting over the fact that I used to get my cycle just fine when I was 15+ lbs lighter, but unfortunately that’s just not me anymore. Starting in mid-August, I cut out all cardio and increased my calories considerably.
Around September 8th, I saw fertile mucus as well as a shift in temperature so I was pretty confident that I ovulated. My temp stayed elevated for a couple days before it dropped on the 13th and I woke up to some very light spotting. I just so happened to have a gyno appointment with a new doctor scheduled for that morning, where I shared with him everything from the last couple years, including my recent lifestyle changes/weight gain and the spotting that morning.
He agreed that he too thought I had hypothalamic amenorrhea, and said I won’t be able to get pregnant without assistance. He then ordered some blood work and prescribed me a hormone replacement regimen. I left that appointment feeling SO discouraged since I really felt like my body was starting to signal it was on its way to recovery (he even told me I should not gain any more weight and start exercising again). The spotting/light bleeding actually continued for 3 days, so I decided to hold off on the hormones to see how things went for another month and would reassess then.
On day 23, I saw a significant amount of EWCM followed by a dip/spike in temp! Then the acne and the sore breasts arrived, so I just knew I was in for a real period finally. My period ended up coming 8 days later.
It really is so satisfying to see some real signs of recovery.
Thanks to all the ladies in the HA recovery group. I wish you weren’t also in this situation, but I am so so grateful for the constant encouragement and support during this challenging time 🙂