Definition - What does Athletic Amenorrhea mean?
Athletic amenorrhea is the loss of the normal menstrual periods in athletic women. Cessation of menses (amenorrhea) is the most distinguished symptom of the Female Athlete Triad, with the other two being the bone loss (osteoporosis) and disordered eating or low energy availability. Not all athletic women experience amenorrhea and it is not considered to be a normal result of athletic training. Because of a compromised ovulatory potential, these women face difficulty getting pregnant.
FertilitySmarts explains Athletic Amenorrhea
Normally, menstrual bleeding occurs after ovulation. However, in women who exercise intensively, ovulation fails to occur, which manifests as irregularities or complete absence of menses. A hormone named gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) released from a brain center called hypothalamus appears to play a vital role in athletic amenorrhea. The increased energy consumption along with insufficient nutrient intake in athletic women reduces the central GnRH drive, which in turn, lowers the FSH and LH levels and the potential of an egg to grow and be released (ovulation). Without ovulation, the endometrium also doesn’t shed at the required time and thus, the amenorrhea or lack of a menstrual period.
Women with athletic amenorrhea are also at risk of bone loss and fractures due to low estrogen levels. In addition, the imbalanced reproductive hormonal levels and disrupted ovulation make it hard for these women to get pregnant.
Amenorrhea can be corrected by reducing exercise stress by 10-15%, increasing caloric intake 10-15%, gaining weight ( 2-5 pounds), and through the use of medications like combination oral contraceptive pills. As soon as these women resume their menses and body weight, their odds of becoming pregnant are increased.