Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (Ovulation Disruption)

What is hypothalamic amenorrhea?

Hypothalamic amenorrhea, or ovulation disruption, is a condition in which menstruation is disrupted for several months due to a problem involving the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which signals the production of other hormones needed for the egg to mature and for ovulation. Sometimes the hypothalamus stops producing GnRH, which, in turn, will reduce the amount of other hormones produced and causing ovulation and menstruation to stop.

What causes hypothalamic amenorrhea?

There can be many reasons for the hypothalamus to slow or stop releasing GnRH. Common characteristics of women with hypothalamic amenorrhea include:

  • Low body weight, low percentage of body fat, or very low intake of calories or fat
  • Emotional or physical stress, such as engaging in strenuous exercise that burns more calories than the patient is consuming
  • Deficiency of leptin, a protein hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism
  • Other medical conditions or illnesses

How is hypothalamic amenorrhea treated?

This condition can be often be treated by reversing the conditions that are causing hypothalamic amenorrhea. This may involve reducing stress levels, decreasing intensity of exercise, and increasing weight and BMI. If the problem persists, further treatment may be needed.