If you've been following my journey for a while now, you know that I have been open about my experience with disordered eating and exercise addiction. In short, I developed a nasty eating disorder and exercise addiction when I was 17 years old (11 years ago!) -- this stuck around for about 5ish+ years through my early twenties.
My chronic under-eating, over-exercise and high anxiety had consequences for my hormones, which stuck with me for years, even after I changed my behavior.
This is my story about having hypothalamic amenorrhea, but most importantly it's about HEALING my hypothalamic amenorrhea. I'm now 33 weeks pregnant (thank you, Jesus) and I want to encourage you with this story because if I can naturally heal, so can you.
Let's start off by diving into what HA is. It's not commonly known, but I'm SO happy that there has been MORE light into this as of recent. It's so so so much more common within women (especially those in the fitness industry). The sad part is that for many, it goes undiagnosed .
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a lack of periods due to insufficient female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). This type of amenorrhea (no period) happens because the brain (a part called the hypothalamus) stops sending signals down the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis which is what usually transmits the body’s messages to make oestrogen and progesterone, and have a menstrual cycle.
Common causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea are:
I didn't just deal with one of the above, my poor body was dealing with it ALL!
If the body doesn’t believe that it is in a “safe” place, it will make sure you aren’t able to reproduce in those conditions. It goes into "power save" mode, shutting off all essential functions. Hence why your period (one of the most highly active functions in a female body) goes MIA.
At the age of 17, I got heavily involved with exercise and extreme dieting. I had no idea what I was doing! When I lost my period, I thought nothing of it. Years went on, I continued with my extreme habits until a few years into my 20's when I had a what am I doing moment. I knew that I wanted to be a mom one day, so I decided to see an Endocrinologist (a medical professional certified to treat hormones, female fertility, etc..). After several tests, one ultrasound and a brain MRI, I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea and immediately put on birth control. I was still young and as you know, a contraceptive pill gives you "a bleed". Little did I know that it was all a "fake bleed" for years and years. I thought nothing of it. It wasn't until I was 26 and got off the pill that I realized how detrimental the pill was to my hormones and body! The entire duration of taking it, I thought everything was all good, but I still hadn't fixed the root issue. Yes, I had overcome my ED and made changes to my exercise regimen by this point, but my body was still stressed AF!
After about two years of going back and forth with trying to get my period back (not really trying, but more so thinking I was trying), I officially made the decision to make changes. I picked up the book "No period, now what?" and EVERYTHING changed for me. My eyes were opened up. I immediately changed my diet, introducing more nutrients (I was unintentionally carb and fats deprived prior), while also toning it down in the exercise department (introducing rest days and cutting out HIIT). After about 4ish months of doing it on my own, I knew my body was getting closer. My blood work was showing positive changes, my body was changing quickly and things were happening down there that hadn't happened since high school..puberty round two?
In august of 2020, after about 4ish months of my healing journey, I pursued a HA recovery coach, Sarah Liz King. She gave me the final push I needed to recover and believe it or not, I got my period exactly a month after.
Things I did after working with Sarah:
(Please note-- each journey and body is different, so what worked for me may not work for you.)
Looking back, the hardest part of healing from HA was the mental work that had to be done. Imagine. Almost 11 years of living a life with bad habits that had to constantly be edified and worked on over the years. That's a long time. I struggled a lot during the months of my healing with body image, but eventually came to peace with it all. I think the second I came to peace is when my body was like.."okay, let's do this. boom. period."
Three months later, my husband and I got pregnant. MIRACLE! God is so good.
Forever grateful for God's grace. I went from 10+ years of no natural period, to having 3 periods and falling pregnant. Yes, I put in the work, but friends, that is ALL JESUS. His strength. His love. His heart.
If I can do it, you can do it. The first step is always tough, but the reward is so so so sweet.
Baby E and I were showered last month with the DREAMIEST baby shower a mama to be could dream of.
Huge thank you to my sweet mom and sister for hosting and planning such an incredible event!
So overwhelmed with joy.
Photos: Gladys Jem
Florals: Blue Daphne Events
Dress: SNDYS the Label (non-maternity, so I sized up!)