Girls only.....skipping periods....

I have been running 4-5 times a week (approx 50-60k) for the last 2 years and since I came off the pill a year ago my periods have been getting lighter and less frequent. I am starting to get worried that this could lead to other bad effects like osteoperosis, stress fractures etc.

Should I be worried (I know it is not a medical problem as I had it checked out at the doctors), and if so what can I do to rectify this? Would going back on the pill help as at least then I had regular periods?

I read that one way to help would be to eat more but I don't think this is relevant to me as I eat like a horse anyway. I'm 5ft 1 and 8st 4 which I think is normal.

Does anyone else suffer from this?


  • Amenorrhea (missing periods) is a recognised risk factor for osteoporosis. It is a problem for a lot of high mileage athletes aswell as gymnastics and the like. I am a bloke so going in to unchartered territory a bit here, but my job does deal with osteoporsis so I know a bit about it.
    Don't want to give advice on how to regulate periods, but I know it can be helped with some contraceptive pills.
    I would recommend going to your GP and asking specifically about osteoporosis - he/she may well send you for a Dxa bone scan which will give an indication of how dense your bones are. They will hopefully be in great nick.
    Don't forget that you are building bone until your mid twenties to thirty and the more you get "in the bank" until then the better. From then on your bone density starts to deteriorate.
    You can help build/ keep bone by taking plenty of calcium and vitamin D, eating a healthy diet, and ironically by taking plenty of weight bearing exercise, such as running!
  • Rachel, I would go back to the doctor and ask for an explanation. Good luck
  • Rachel, I was on the pill for years and years, was happy that I hardly ever had a period, but now I've got osteoporosis and have had 5 foot fractures in the past few years. Go get it checked out, and don't take no for an answer, it's important.
    It's now known that lack of monthly bleeding and low oestrogen rates are a contributing factor.
  • Hi Rachael

    You have my sympathy - I'm the same height as you, and very similar weight (ie. completely normal BMI), with a normal body fat percentage, and I get running-induced amenorrhoea at high mileage levels despite eating lots. I tend to shed weight rather scarily too, though hope I'm on top of it this time round.

    But the doc in me has to say yes, missing periods is A Bad Thing for your bones in the long term. Nor, it appears, can the process be avoided by taking calcium supplements or oestrogens in the pill or HRT, and the weight-bearing exercise that we do doesn't protect us (although strength training, playing squash, and triple-jumping might because they make the tendons pull hard on their bony insertions and that stimulates new bone formation).

    I find that reducing my mileage restores normal function very quickly, but that isn't much good if you're marathon-training.

    It would be worth having a baseline bone density scan using DEXA rather than heel ultrasound (you may have to pay depending on the criteria used in your area for having the test on the NHS) and repeating the test annually if your periods don't return. One reading isn't terribly meaningful, but a series showing that you are maintaining your bone density would be reassuring, and a drop in bone density over a year would suggest that Something Should Be Done.

    So I agree - back to the quack!

    HTH, V-rap.
  • Thanks for all the advice guys it helps loads, kind of knew I should go back to the doctors but didn't want to waste their time if there was an easy quick solution. Now I know what to ask for it should be more straightforward. Don't really want to reduce my mileage but I guess health comes first!

  • This thread has really interested me as I too skip periods, but I do it on purpose by taking my packs of pills back to back. For example, the last time I had a period was October 2002. Is this as bad for you as missing periods due to other reasons? When I stop taking the pills 'normal function' resumes straight away. I'd hate to think I've been deliberately putting myself at risk of osteoporosis.
  • Posted by Ironwolf "5 foot fractures in the past few years"...

    Sorry to hijack this thread but I am pretty sure I have got a stress fracture in my right foot at the moment. Nothing conclusive via xray (but that's not unusual) and seeing a sports physio on Thursday but wonder what the symptoms you experienced were? I did have about 12 months when I came off the pill when I never had a period but in the past few years they have been normal although now getting heavier....thanks, Amanda
  • You can relax, Cally. As far as we know, "tricycling" pill packs to reduce the frequency of your periods is safe and will not increase your risk of osteoporosis. If you have a normal cycle when you're not on the pill, your hormonal system is in working order.
  • Thanks very much for that Vrap - I was happily reading away and got that horrible 'cold chill down the back of the neck' feeling!
  • I worry a bit about this too. When I was at dance school I didn't have periods. I must have been just slightly too thin or something because during the summer holidays when I stopped exercising so much I would have one, then they'd stop again as soon as I went back to it.

    Now I'm on the pill, but have gone almost down to the weight I was when I was at college I think, what with all my running, so I don't know what would happen if I came off it. Osteoporosis runs in my family too, ought I to go and get checked out?

    Glad to hear that it's no problem to take packets one after another though, thinking of doing this so that I'm not on on marathon day. Never done it before, is that ok?
  • depends a bit on your pill, if you are on one with two or three different strengths of pill in each packet it isn't so straightforward as the first pills are often not strong enough to stop the period so you need to just take the stronger ones but that doesn't give you a full month, should be ok if all pills the same
  • Yes, get that checked, Meggles. If you've had more than 6 months of exercise-induced or thinness-induced amenorrhoea, your bones are at risk and you should have a DEXA scan. In your circumstances, I wouldn't foresee any problem securing an NHS referral.

    As long as you're not on a triphasic pill (one that has three different colours of pill in the pack) there should be no problem taking your pill without a break to avoid a withdrawal bleed on marathon day. If you ARE on a triphasic pill (Logynon, Trinordiol, Triadene and Tri-minulet are triphasic) or on Binovum, e-mail me and I'll go into a bit more detail about what to do.
  • I remember posting about this last summer and at the time I thought I understood the connection between running and periods. Sorry if this seems a stupid question but is it the regularity of the period that's important rather than the heaviness of the period?

    By the way, if you are planning any babies, breastfeeding has been shown to protect against osteoporosis.
  • How many packets of pills is it ok to take without a break? For some reason I have it in my head that you shouldn't take more than 3 packets in a row. I don't know where I got that from, and I would love to know if it is true. (I'm on the not-triphasic pill, Marvelon I think.)
  • I don't know the answer to that I'm afraid but would be interested to know. Currently I just think 'Oh, I haven't had a period in a while, maybe I'd better stop my pills...' So I've been taking about 6 packets in a row.
  • Thanks V-rap, I was on Cilest and have just (3 days ago) changed onto Yasmin which apparantly is new. Neither have 3 different colours in the pack so I assume I'm ok to take 2 packs in a row.

    I will ask about a bone scan the next time I see my doctor.
  • PS Laura L. no babies, not yet, not for a long time yet, oh no!
  • As babies have come up can I just chip in my little contribution. Whilst you may think that having children is a long way off, please do consider what effect what you are doing to your body now has on your future fertility.

    When you want kids the damage may have been done. Sorry folks, I just wish someone had made me think about this a long time ago!!
  • oo, what sort of damage?
  • I'm not medically qualified, I can only speak from experience. My periods have always been on the light side and now I'm having IVF. Maybe there's no link but I have my suspicions......
  • Laura, it is the regularity of periods that indicates whether the system is working - a cycle of anything between about 21 and 42 days can be compatible with regular ovulation. The amount lost varies from woman to woman and cycle to cycle depending on lots of factors - anything from a smear of blood lasting a few hours to quite heavy loss for a week with little clots can be normal. Big clots, "flooding", and losing over 80ml per cycle (which doesn't sound much, but is lots and lots when it's spilled blood) are not normal.

    Meggles, Yasmin isn't triphasic so you should be fine.

    Cally, I don't know. In theory, since the pill stops the lining of the womb growing, you could take it continuously from 15 till 50 and never have a period - there isn't a load of gunk accumulating in your innards as a result. However, one of the reasons for the pill-free week is to reduce your exposure to oestrogen, which MAY increase the risk of cancers of the womb and breast, and DOES increase the risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs. It's for you to decide on your own particular risk/convenience equation.
  • Keep smiling, it's a serious topic and worth bringing up. I know from another thread about your heart ache on the IVF roller coaster, very best wishes to you.
    I got as far as having a laparoscopy and doing those stupid temperature charts when I was trying to conceive for the second time; that's when I first suspected my cycle was awry as there was no pattern whatsoever. I was very fortunate in the end to have a second baby; probably would have gone for no 3 (at least) if the interval hadn't been as long,I really hope saying that doesn't sound insensitive to anyone struggling to conceive for the first time, I know I'm lucky to have the ones I've got.

    Thanks for clarifying about regularity Vrap, my periods are down to about 1.5 days now, not complaining! But if it had been a bad sign just wanted to know about it. I can (after about 20 years! would have been useful earlier!) now tell when I'm ovulating, so I guess so long as that's happening there's some hormonal activity of the right kind going on.

    While on the subject, has anyone noticed any effect of ovulation on their running?
  • I haven't, Laura. My cycle seems to make no impact on my running. Nor does running make any impact on my periods until I suddenly realise (usually because my husband tells me) that there hasn't been one for a couple of months. But I've never missed more than two or three at a time.

    I didn't realise No 4 was on the way until the pregnancy was well past the morning sickness stage because I thought my periods had been stressed and exercised out of existence. I didn't have any morning sickness in that pregnancy either, although in retrospect I realised why I had been uncontrollably hungry for several months.
  • Thanks for all the info, especially Vrap. It really is priceless having all this stuff on tap! I hadn't realised the significance of the pill-free week & think maybe I ought to go back to a more regular cycle for a bit, just to put my mind at rest that all is well. I don't really suffer during my periods - in fact I hardly notice them - I just skip them out of convenience.

    Thanks again, all.
  • Vrap, it's so nice to have you at hand!! With my history I still find it hard to believe when women get pregnant accidentally or don't know that they are. When you're like me you have all the symptoms but no pregnancy!!

    Laura L I can understand that secondary infertility is just as hard. And for the record my sister is one of those lucky ones who drops her knickers and is pregnant (or so it seems!). She's now had a coil fitted 'cos she doesn't want anymore. Worrying about contraception seems strange to me now!

    Sorry, hope I haven't hijacked this thread.

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