My HA story has been a LONG one. Almost 11 years in the making. That being said, since I first reported that I got my cycles back in August 2017, I can say with confidence that they have stuck around. Month after month, they are slowly getting shorter (they started about 50 days long and are now about 28-30) and ovulation is happening much more consistently which is awesome. Unfortunately, most of my hormones are still struggling to regain balance (this is common) and it's caused me to take a few big steps back to take a dose of my own medicine and care for myself. I decided to take a break from full time baby catching (I'll still be doing nutrition & wellness consults and travelling as a rural locum midwife) but I won't and simply cannot have the stress and circadian rhythm disturbance of being on call 24-7 anymore. I'm hoping that this is the missing piece of the puzzle for me and serves as a good reminder that women who have had HA will ALWAYS be more sensitive to stress. It's important to learn this early and make some good changes to help support your healthy body.
HA (Hypothalamic amenorrhea) is a beast truly a beast. Recovery for every woman is unique, challenging and filled with multiple ups and downs. For some women, monthly cycles and hormone balance can return in a matter of months, for others, it can take years. HA happens for a variety of reasons. Some women get it by chronically starving themselves with diets and exercise and others, especially athletes, get it by finding themselves in a state of chronic caloric deficit caused by high levels of training and sports. Some women are more sensitive than others to this (as was my case) and as a result, their cycles disappear, bone mass diminishes and overall vitality suffers. Bummer.
I've had a number of messages from women who have been recovering from HA and are really struggling with the added weight they had to put on to re-gain their cycles. So many of you have asked if I lost weight after gaining the necessary fat mass restart my cycles? The answer is NO and honestly, for the first time in my life, I couldn't give a damn. If I had read this 6 or 12 months ago I would have thought to myself "that's nice for her but there is no way I'll ever be okay with these extra 20 lbs". Well, let me tell you, in time, you will and if you aren't please reach out and ask for some help. I have some wonderful strategies to help you to truly love and accept yourself. Life is far to short and precious to waste on being obsessed about a number on the scale or jean size. Nobody ever sat on their death bed at the age of 90 thinking "I'm so glad I fit into those size 0 jeans" and if they did....well I'm glad they found their happiness :) but I would rather focus my life around experiences, love and connection.
There are a few great podcasts that dive into the science behind how the body recovers from HA .For me, learning about the physiology behind the body's changes and adaptations has been very helpful and fostered a sense of loving kindness for my wonderful body.
Many HA experts say that you need to just "walk and do yoga" to get your cycles back AND you need to continue this keeping activity very limited for months and years after recovery. While cutting out heavy exercise may be necessary to first regain your cycles, for me, this was never an option. The activities I do truly make me happy. They are how I socialize with my tribe, how I feel connected to my planet and how I feel most connected to myself. So, while yoga and walking may be okay for some, for many of us gals with HA and in the mountain community, it just isn't an option. These days I'm focusing on how it makes me feel. If I'm tired, I rest (no debate) but when I feel good I've been training at the climbing gym, lifting, running, ski touring and for the first time in eons I'm seeing some muscle growth and fitness gains (prior to this it felt like my guns were disappearing no matter what I did). It feels good to feel stronger again. When I look in the mirror at the gym (come on, we all do it!), for the first time in my life I find that I don't criticize myself, instead, I just witness my body and internally high five myself because it just did 30 pull ups 20lbs heavier than last year and shit balls, that's strong.
If you do some reading about the weight set point theory you'll learn that everyone has a range of sizes that suits their unique genetic make up. After HA, you'll likely trend on the high side of this number or possibly even move above your previous set point. This is a brilliant adaptation to help the body SURVIVE. For me, I'm at the weight I was at in high school when I felt a little chubby. This is probably necessary for my body to feel safe, produce hormones it needs and feel like it has a little bit of reserve just incase a 'famine' hits again. You know what, that's totally ok with me. My body wants to be healthy, it works just as it's meant to and we have these things called stretchy jeans and yoga pants....which makes it easier :)
I've also had messages from women who are fearful their partners won't find them attractive at their new size. Well, let me tell you, the vast majority of men may find your new HEALTY body more attractive. Your partner should respect your journey, changing body and movement towards health and longevity. If they don't, well then, in my own words, they can "fuck right off". Get a new partner, the guy or girl you're with has their own issues you need to surround yourself with positivity.
Finally I've been blessed to be able to work with so many women who are doing such good work to find balance again and learning a lot about their bodies and themselves along the way. I've had an overwhelming number of new clients who struggle with HA and I'm really enjoying the work I'm doing with them. I'm happy to report that so far, since January 90% of the women I've worked with have seen their cycle return! If I could do a backflip I would! This is so huge and it simply melts my heart to be able to help others find their health, balance and fertility again. I'll be featuring some of their on my IG so stay tuned.