Han's Experience with Period Loss

Han's Experience with Period Loss


I want to start this piece by acknowledging that I am writing about this experience as someone who has been fortunate enough to give birth to my beautiful daughter, Harper, and to currently be pregnant with my second child, due in November. I have been on the other side of things, wondering whether my body is going to be capable of any of this and hope that my experience can help anyone else who may be going through something similar. 

At the beginning of 2020 I decided to stop taking the contraceptive pill as I wanted to fall pregnant as soon after Matt and I were married as possible. I’d given myself over 12 months, knowing that it might take a while. My cycle had never been very regular before going on the pill, but I hadn’t ever looked into this. To be honest, I’d thought it was a blessing that I didn’t have to deal with a period every month. 

So 12 months later, when my period still hadn’t returned, my GP referred me to a fertility specialist. We ruled out a few conditions and landed on Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea. It’s a mouthful, but it describes a condition where the part of your brain responsible for hormone production (the hypothalamus) decides that your body is under too much stress to create a menstrual cycle. This really surprised me. I thought this was a condition that professional athletes suffered from, not everyday people like me. I thought I was living a very healthy lifestyle by working hard, keeping fit and eating a ‘clean’ diet. 

My specialist advised me to see a naturopath, dietitian and chinese doctor and to stop running and start taking it easy. I took her advice and found a great team of professionals who worked specifically in the space of women’s health and fertility. I realised through these sessions that there wasn’t one single thing I needed to change, it was a whole combination of factors I’d adopted over several years that had brought me to where I was at this point. 

Firstly, I wasn’t eating enough food. After struggling with gut issues for years, I’d restricted my diet to a very small range of food that didn’t upset my stomach too much. My naturopath picked up on this and referred me to a gastroenterologist who was able to diagnose me with a parasite that was actually very easy to treat. Between the dietitian and the naturopath, I then had to work at improving my diet so that I wasn’t being so restrictive. This was really hard for me, I’d gradually become so used to tightly controlling what I ate that I found it surprisingly challenging to expand my diet. 

I was also leading a fairly stressful lifestyle, having started working at a new clinic while also completing my masters degree. I was working 6 days each week, finishing at 8pm most nights, studying and attending my uni placements all over Melbourne. Matt and I had also decided to move away from Melbourne, so I was commuting up to 90 minutes each way. Now that I reflect, I did feel incredibly stressed at this time, but I never considered that the stress would be affecting me so deeply. Because these elements had all built up gradually, it didn’t feel like a big shock to my system and I assumed it was normal to feel stressed about work. 

When I add all of that up, I don’t think the amount of running I was doing at this point was ever a problem in itself, but it was just adding to the overall stress on my body. Cutting out running was the hardest part of my treatment. I love running and always have, it’s my favourite way to start the day and really helps to clear my head. I replaced running with walking and continued Pilates and yoga, but I would get a pang of envy any time I saw someone else running. 

I started to feel quite frustrated by the whole process. I was very aware that once I fell pregnant, my lifestyle would change, but I felt like I’d already had to turn my life upside down and I wasn’t even pregnant yet. It seems a bit petty now that I look back, as it was all worth it, but when you’re not even sure if you’re going to be able to fall pregnant, it starts to play on your mind a lot. 

After about a year of these lifestyle changes, my period had not returned. Maybe if I gave it longer it would have, but I was also facing the pressure of my biological clock at this point and didn’t want to wait any longer. I went through a process of ovulation induction, injecting hormones each day to make me ovulate. Our second round was successful and we fell pregnant with Harper in December 2021. 

I had some hope that my period might return once I stopped breastfeeding Harper, but it didn’t and we used the same process to fall pregnant again. Heading into my second pregnancy I was in a completely different head space. I continued running, I was already eating a much more healthy and normal diet, and I only needed a couple of appointments with my naturopath. I had no negative feelings heading into this pregnancy and therefore I am enjoying the whole process in a very different way. 

My main learning from this experience is that stress can build up gradually and if we aren’t checking in with ourselves regularly, we can reach boiling point very suddenly. I am also now very aware that the ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ lifestyle that is often promoted can be very misleading and not healthy at all. Stress can also subtly come at you from multiple angles, making it difficult to identify. I now know that I push feelings of stress aside, so I need to be very self aware and think things through before I commit. Even though I haven’t successfully started up my cycle again, I have learnt so many valuable lessons about my health that I plan to continue to live by and hope to pass on to my daughters.

Han x

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