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The Informed Parent

Amenorrhea

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Aug. 29, 2011
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A mother brought her 16-year-old daughter in for an annual check-up. The young lady was a ballet student in her high school, as well as a dancer for the local dance company theartre. Both mother and daughter were concerned that she had not had her period in over six months.

Pubertal development appears to be delayed in young female athletes, especially runners and ballet dancers. Relatively low body fat gives the before-pubertal female greater strength-weight ratio, which is useful in gymnastics and ballet dancing. This low percentage of body fat may be partly responsible for her loss of menstrual periods. In order to maintain her superior performance, the young lady may feel compelled to stay thin. One must be sure that she does not have an eating disorder, which is common in this group of athletes.

Also, some experts feel that scoliosis and stress fractures in young ballet dancers are related to delayed puberty and secondary amenorrhea (losing one’s periods for at least six months after puberty).

A poor diet can contribute to amenorrhea. Diets low in calories, vegetarian diets, and diets low in fat and zinc have all been implicated with amenorrhea in athletes. She should be sure to have an adequate diet with enough calcium and protein. Stress is another contributor. A hiatus from her training may also restart her menses. If there are no endocrine-related causes, it may be helpful for her to examine her sports activity and lifestyle for other clues for her loss of periods.  




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