Girl, You’ll Be a Woman: How ED’s Affect the Reproductive System

I finally have it. The official diagnosis. Signed and stamped, backed up by some moderately painful blood tests and a few rather embarrassing examinations that involved having my legs up in the air somewhere in the general area of my ears.

I now know why is it that I have not had a single period for a couple dozen months.

Well, the end to this story is quite unexciting, considering the long buildup that I have gone though. After saying a long-time-coming adieu to the gynecologist who did nothing but raise his eyebrows in bewilderment and put me on the pill every time I saw him, I switched to a new doctor who happens to specialize in both gynecology and endocrinology. The woman, a stern-looking lady who was recommended to me by my mother’s friend, was ridiculously difficult to see. Not in the sense that she was invisible or tiny (au contraire, she had quite the presence), but in the sense that getting an appointment with her was about as easy as taking a tour of Pentagon’s secret archives. Nevertheless, I managed to see her, and within half an hour, she sent me off to get those blasted blood tests and return in a week. When she looked over my previous analysis results, she gave me an unimpressed look. “These tests don’t even touch on the root of the problem,” she said; and that was when I knew that I should have gone to her months ago.

I fasted for 12 hours – which, by the way, is hell on earth for a night eater like me – and arrived at the clinic at 7 a.m. (which meant waking up at 6, an inconceivable time for a night owl like myself) to get blood drawn and tested for various hormones, including TSH, LH, AMH, FSH and other abbreviations that I don’t really bother to remember anymore. The results were in on the very same day, and I, being the Google/WebMD freak that I am, immediately came up with part of the explanation.

The doctor provided me with the rest a few days later.

Now, listen up, aspiring anorexics and those who think that losing a couple of pounds is no big deal.

Hypogonadotropic amenorrhea. A fancy term for my body saying fuck you, you irresponsible piece of shit, you spent an entire year starving yourself, so clearly you have no need to reproduce. In slightly more PG-13 terms, my lack of menses is explained by the fact that my pituitary gland is essentially useless when it comes to producing two very important hormones, FSH and LH. These two compounds are responsible for stimulating the tubes downstairs and making the egg into a fertilizable cell instead of just a useless lump sitting in my ovaries. When these hormones are low (in my case, the percentage is that of a male infant), the egg doesn’t get ready for fertilization and when it’s not, then there is no way to have a period.

Pretty simple A causes B causes C.

The real kicker, though, comes in when we ask ourselves what caused A in the first place? Told ya. I made my own body give up on me. What happens when you starve yourself is that the organism struggles to maintain the most essential functions, like breathing, for example; meanwhile, anything it deems useless gets shut down. Same thing happens when you’re stressed. Your higher cognitive functions disappear and all you can do is fight or flee. The concept is pretty similar, considering the degree of starvation I went through was a great shock to my body. Therefore, unnecessary things like baby-making hit the cutting room floor.

Was I surprised? Not really.

Was I upset? Kind of. I asked whether there was any possibility of me getting pregnant anytime, like, ever, and the doctor told me that yes, it is very possible. I would have to either kick the pituitary into action, which happens sometimes by itself, or, alternately (and what is more likely), I would have to substitute the missing hormones with injections. But only when I actually decide to get a bun in the oven. Otherwise, I just carry on taking the pill to keep the old sewer running, and, more importantly, maintain my weight at a decent level.

So that’s the story. Now, you know I just live to be your cautionary tale, so let me tell you that this type of amenorrhea is part of what is called the Female Athlete Triad: eating disorder, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. Sounds delicious?

So does that chocolate sundae. Go get it, tiger. And buy some Tampax on the way home. 

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