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Why Don’t All Women Stop Menstruating at a Low Weight?

By December 13, 2012

Why don’t all women lose their period at a low weight? And, despite not losing my period at an “anorexic weight,” how is it possible for me to still have osteopenia? Does keeping my period mean that I don’t need to be as heavy as most people? – anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

The point at which a woman loses her period is very individual. Some women maintain a very low weight and still have periods. If you happen to be on birth control pills, you will continue to have a period in spite of severe anorexia in many cases.

The fact that you have osteopenia indicates that your body is being harmed by your low weight. Osteopenia is caused by many hormonal imbalances associated with an eating disorder, not just estrogen levels. Restoring your body fat to a healthy level can reverse some of these changes and restore the hormonal balance over all. You don’t have a wide window of opportunity to do this however. Between ages 30-35, your bones are as strong as they will ever be. After age 20, the rate at which your bone strength increases slows down tremendously.

Putting off recovery can have devastating consequences on your long term health and can greatly increase your risk of serious health issues as you move to middle age. Please take care of  yourself now.

Brenda K. Woods, MD, FAAFP