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How To Get Your Period Back After Restriction

Can ED Make You Lose Your Period? 

Are you struggling with an eating disorder and have lost your period? 

Restriction will often result in a woman’s period stopping or changing significantly. Let’s talk a bit about why this happens, and how to get your period back after restriction. 

When I say “restriction” i’m referencing one or more of the many behaviors associated with eating disorders. This could look like: 

  • Food intake that is too low to meet your needs
  • Excessively exercising
  • Purging by vomiting, or laxative use

If you’ve noticed changes in your flow you are likely restricting in some way.  When your period completely stops it is called hypothalmic amenorrhea.  Risks with this include: 

  • Decreased bone mineral density
  • Cardiac irregularities
  • Psychological Disturbances
  • Reproductive Concerns
  • Compromised immune system

Those with eating disorders that have lost their period have a 60% increased risk in bone fractures.

Let’s explore what period changes occur during active restriction, the recovery process and beyond.  

Why Am I not Getting My Period With Restriction? 

When we significantly reduce our food intake, excessively exercise, or purge  a cascade of events occurs in our bodies.  This really is loaded with a lot of scientific jargon, so i’ll try my best to outline the process in a way that won’t make your head hurt. 

Here is what’s going down when we notice we lose our period with restriction:  

  1. The body is suppressing something called ganadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). It’s not important that you know how to say it-or even that you know the acronym.  But it is an essential component in the body for the feedback mechanisms involved in making estradiol. 
  2. Low GnRH causes low follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  3. Low GnRH also causes low luteinizing hormone (LH)
  4. As a result of all of these hormones being low- the ovarian granulosa does not produce estradiol.
  5. Endometrial thickening does not occur. Meaning we do not experience menses. 

In other words, our body is telling us that we’re STARVING, and making babies is not important.  So we stop getting a period. 

Our bodies attempt to conserve energy wherever it can, including slowing heartbeat and breaking down lean body mass. 

How Quickly Will I See My Period Change With An ED

This answer will differ for everyone. 

However, it’s important to note that a body weight below the BMI standards is NOT what determines whether menses is lost. We can see loss of menses at any body weight when we are restricting.   

While hypothalamic amenorrhea technically lasts for 3 or more months of continual missed periods, lighter periods or skipped periods is also a concern. 

How To Get Your Period Back after ED

To get your period back after an ED, you need to be actively doing these things: 

  • Weight restoring to your body’s natural blueprint. This does NOT mean what’s on the BMI scale.  It may look like your pre- eating disorder weight. It’s important to note that you may also need to go beyond the weight you stopped having your  period. 
  • Stop exercise until you are fully weight restored and your healthcare team states it is safe to do so. 
  • Monitor your stress.  Stress increases cortisol in your body, which can impact having a period. 
  • Get adequate sleep.  Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels as well influencing how long it may take to get your period back.  

It is unlikely that you will resume regular periods if we are missing one or more of these factors. 

It’s also VERY important to remember that you CAN resume your periods BEFORE you are fully weight restored.  

Infographic on how to get your period back after ed with light blue and pink clouds

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Meal Plan 

There will not be a one size fits all meal plan to get your period back.  Your meal plan should be tailored to meet your specific needs for weight restoration with a treatment team that includes a HAES dietitian

One of the most important things to consider in an amenorrhea recovery meal plan is that it is safe to consume in an outpatient setting. 

For some people, their food intake is so low that refeeding should occur in an inpatient setting for safety.  This is to prevent refeeding syndrome– a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when too much food is introduced too quickly following starvation.

However, if it is deemed safe by the treatment team to increase food intake at home, you should expect the following in a recovery meal plan which will promote weight restoration to get your period back. 

  • Breakfast (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)
  • Snack 
  • Lunch (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)
  • Snack
  • Dinner (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)

You should plan to have meals and snacks no more than 4-5 hours apart. Recommended portions of each of these choices will be decided by the healthcare team. 

To learn more about safely increasing food following restriction check out this eating disorder recovery meal plan. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Your Period Back After ED

It can take up to six months after fully weight restoring and eating to meet your nutrition needs to resume regular periods. It’s also VERY important to remember that you CAN resume your periods BEFORE you are fully weight restored. 

The weight at which you get your period back is not a marker of where your body is being adequately nourished.  The time it takes to get your period back after an eating disorder will also depend on  total food intake, exercise levels, stress and sleep.

Will Taking Birth Control Pills Speed Up Getting My Period Back After ED?

No! In fact this can be very dangerous. 

While most birth control pills will result in blood flow during the “placebo” days, the hormones in birth control pills are simply masking the absence of those hormones required to produce a period in our body. 

This is dangerous for a few reasons including: 

  • The body is requiring energy to produce this placebo period.  This is often energy that cannot be spared, thus furthering the problems already common with low energy intake. 
  • The person with an eating disorder may think that they are weight restored because they are having a period. It tricks the eating disorder into thinking the body is “healthy.”
  • The healthcare team and the patient may miss the severity of the eating disorder. The underlying cause is not being treated and could get worse!

The best thing you can do when attempting to resume your period is to restore weight properly with the help of a trained healthcare team.  

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Signs 

  • Increase in body temperature. Those actively restricting in some often feel very cold and actually have a very low physical body temperature.  Take your temperature!  A normal body temperature can indicate your period is on its way. 
  • You’re getting hungry!  Regular hunger and satiety are good indicators the body is being fed and it can resume having a period.  HOWEVER it’s important to know that not everyone who starts having regular periods again will have hunger and fullness cues.  Or these cues will likely still be heavily skewed by the eating disorder. 
  • You may notice an improvement in sleep.  Often when we aren’t having periods we’ll notice sleep disturbances. 
  • If you are having night sweats (common with restrictive eating) these may decrease. 
Infographic describing the signs your body may show when you are about to get your period back.

Having A Period After ED Can Cause Many Emotions

There are often two competing voices when it comes to the way we feel about symptoms of recovery from an eating disorder.

One is the healthy self. When we get our period back after restricting, your healthy self will likely feel:

  • Accomplished! You’re on your way to recovery!
  • Safe- your body is no longer compromised
  • Healthy

On the other hand, your ED voice (eating disorder voice) is also probably having a lot of emotions about getting your period back. It may be saying:

  • It was sure nice to not worry about having a period
  • Now no one will know how sick you are
  • I don’t want to be “healthy,” i’ve worked so hard to keep my body the way I want it.

No matter what you are feeling when you get your period back, you are not alone! This is likely a time of mixed emotions.

If you’re brave and willing to share this part of your journey to support others, please feel free to drop a comment below! It’s great to build community and let others know they are not alone.

Sharing is caring!

Can ED Make You Lose Your Period? 

Are you struggling with an eating disorder and have lost your period? 

Restriction will often result in a woman’s period stopping or changing significantly. Let’s talk a bit about why this happens, and how to get your period back after restriction. 

When I say “restriction” i’m referencing one or more of the many behaviors associated with eating disorders. This could look like: 

  • Food intake that is too low to meet your needs
  • Excessively exercising
  • Purging by vomiting, or laxative use

If you’ve noticed changes in your flow you are likely restricting in some way.  When your period completely stops it is called hypothalmic amenorrhea.  Risks with this include: 

  • Decreased bone mineral density
  • Cardiac irregularities
  • Psychological Disturbances
  • Reproductive Concerns
  • Compromised immune system

Those with eating disorders that have lost their period have a 60% increased risk in bone fractures.

Let’s explore what period changes occur during active restriction, the recovery process and beyond.  

Why Am I not Getting My Period With Restriction? 

When we significantly reduce our food intake, excessively exercise, or purge  a cascade of events occurs in our bodies.  This really is loaded with a lot of scientific jargon, so i’ll try my best to outline the process in a way that won’t make your head hurt. 

Here is what’s going down when we notice we lose our period with restriction:  

  1. The body is suppressing something called ganadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). It’s not important that you know how to say it-or even that you know the acronym.  But it is an essential component in the body for the feedback mechanisms involved in making estradiol. 
  2. Low GnRH causes low follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  3. Low GnRH also causes low luteinizing hormone (LH)
  4. As a result of all of these hormones being low- the ovarian granulosa does not produce estradiol.
  5. Endometrial thickening does not occur. Meaning we do not experience menses. 

In other words, our body is telling us that we’re STARVING, and making babies is not important.  So we stop getting a period. 

Our bodies attempt to conserve energy wherever it can, including slowing heartbeat and breaking down lean body mass. 

How Quickly Will I See My Period Change With An ED

This answer will differ for everyone. 

However, it’s important to note that a body weight below the BMI standards is NOT what determines whether menses is lost. We can see loss of menses at any body weight when we are restricting.   

While hypothalamic amenorrhea technically lasts for 3 or more months of continual missed periods, lighter periods or skipped periods is also a concern. 

How To Get Your Period Back after ED

To get your period back after an ED, you need to be actively doing these things: 

  • Weight restoring to your body’s natural blueprint. This does NOT mean what’s on the BMI scale.  It may look like your pre- eating disorder weight. It’s important to note that you may also need to go beyond the weight you stopped having your  period. 
  • Stop exercise until you are fully weight restored and your healthcare team states it is safe to do so. 
  • Monitor your stress.  Stress increases cortisol in your body, which can impact having a period. 
  • Get adequate sleep.  Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels as well influencing how long it may take to get your period back.  

It is unlikely that you will resume regular periods if we are missing one or more of these factors. 

It’s also VERY important to remember that you CAN resume your periods BEFORE you are fully weight restored.  

Infographic on how to get your period back after ed with light blue and pink clouds

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Meal Plan 

There will not be a one size fits all meal plan to get your period back.  Your meal plan should be tailored to meet your specific needs for weight restoration with a treatment team that includes a HAES dietitian

One of the most important things to consider in an amenorrhea recovery meal plan is that it is safe to consume in an outpatient setting. 

For some people, their food intake is so low that refeeding should occur in an inpatient setting for safety.  This is to prevent refeeding syndrome– a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when too much food is introduced too quickly following starvation.

However, if it is deemed safe by the treatment team to increase food intake at home, you should expect the following in a recovery meal plan which will promote weight restoration to get your period back. 

  • Breakfast (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)
  • Snack 
  • Lunch (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)
  • Snack
  • Dinner (includes grains, meat, dairy, fruits and/or veggies and fats)

You should plan to have meals and snacks no more than 4-5 hours apart. Recommended portions of each of these choices will be decided by the healthcare team. 

To learn more about safely increasing food following restriction check out this eating disorder recovery meal plan. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Your Period Back After ED

It can take up to six months after fully weight restoring and eating to meet your nutrition needs to resume regular periods. It’s also VERY important to remember that you CAN resume your periods BEFORE you are fully weight restored. 

The weight at which you get your period back is not a marker of where your body is being adequately nourished.  The time it takes to get your period back after an eating disorder will also depend on  total food intake, exercise levels, stress and sleep.

Will Taking Birth Control Pills Speed Up Getting My Period Back After ED?

No! In fact this can be very dangerous. 

While most birth control pills will result in blood flow during the “placebo” days, the hormones in birth control pills are simply masking the absence of those hormones required to produce a period in our body. 

This is dangerous for a few reasons including: 

  • The body is requiring energy to produce this placebo period.  This is often energy that cannot be spared, thus furthering the problems already common with low energy intake. 
  • The person with an eating disorder may think that they are weight restored because they are having a period. It tricks the eating disorder into thinking the body is “healthy.”
  • The healthcare team and the patient may miss the severity of the eating disorder. The underlying cause is not being treated and could get worse!

The best thing you can do when attempting to resume your period is to restore weight properly with the help of a trained healthcare team.  

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Signs 

  • Increase in body temperature. Those actively restricting in some often feel very cold and actually have a very low physical body temperature.  Take your temperature!  A normal body temperature can indicate your period is on its way. 
  • You’re getting hungry!  Regular hunger and satiety are good indicators the body is being fed and it can resume having a period.  HOWEVER it’s important to know that not everyone who starts having regular periods again will have hunger and fullness cues.  Or these cues will likely still be heavily skewed by the eating disorder. 
  • You may notice an improvement in sleep.  Often when we aren’t having periods we’ll notice sleep disturbances. 
  • If you are having night sweats (common with restrictive eating) these may decrease. 
Infographic describing the signs your body may show when you are about to get your period back.

Having A Period After ED Can Cause Many Emotions

There are often two competing voices when it comes to the way we feel about symptoms of recovery from an eating disorder.

One is the healthy self. When we get our period back after restricting, your healthy self will likely feel:

  • Accomplished! You’re on your way to recovery!
  • Safe- your body is no longer compromised
  • Healthy

On the other hand, your ED voice (eating disorder voice) is also probably having a lot of emotions about getting your period back. It may be saying:

  • It was sure nice to not worry about having a period
  • Now no one will know how sick you are
  • I don’t want to be “healthy,” i’ve worked so hard to keep my body the way I want it.

No matter what you are feeling when you get your period back, you are not alone! This is likely a time of mixed emotions.

If you’re brave and willing to share this part of your journey to support others, please feel free to drop a comment below! It’s great to build community and let others know they are not alone.

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!