I’ll cut to the chase.
I lost my period for 7 years due to anorexia. As a result of my illness, I lost 80 pounds in 4 months, and my periods vanished, when I was 15. Over the next 7 years, I was visited by Ms. Flow a total of 3 or 4 times for a brief day of “spotting” and nothing more.
While it was scary to not have a period (there aren’t a lot of studies on what this does to women long-term, including to fertility), I was so sick both mentally and physically that it was also a good thing in my eyes. Those few times that I did get a bit of period were met with mixed emotions. The “Cassie” that was left in me was hopeful, thrilled to see that my female body still knew how to ovulate and menstruate. The “Ana” in me, though, shouted, “You clearly ate too much this month. You’re getting fat.”
Now that I am weight-restored (I gained 70 pounds over the last 2 years in recovery) and I would say mentally about 70% recovered (my own assessment of myself), I have been getting a regular period since summer 2020, so for about a year and a half. I am pleased to say that I am thrilled with this fact in principle…however, I didn’t miss the period itself. And, now, my periods are accompanied by intense, debilitating, piercing pain. I’m not exaggerating.
I would say that I have a moderate pain tolerance. But this pain is unquestionably a 10/10. I have been forced to spend the first 2 days of every period for the last year and a half in the bathtub, taking high doses of painkillers (which don’t even work anymore), stressing about the fact that I’m taking painkillers that have lists of long-term side effects, and feeling hopeless. Nearing my next period has been mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. I fear it coming, worry it will overlap with a heftier work day/one that includes a client meeting, and stress that it is the result of fertility issues because of my anorexia.
I’m writing this post because I’ve Googled “More period pain after anorexia recovery” and similar search terms and been met with little to no research on this topic. Long-term remission from anorexia as robust as my recovery has been is not widely researched, so I wasn’t too surprised. But I did want answers.
First, I found this article that explains that “Dysmenorrhea causes severe and frequent cramps and pain during your period. It may be either primary or secondary.
- Primary dysmenorrhea. This occurs when you first start your period and continues throughout your life. It is usually life-long. It can cause severe and frequent menstrual cramping from severe and abnormal uterine contractions.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea. This type is due to some physical cause. It usually starts later in life. It may be caused by another medical condition, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis.”
Okay, so it looks like I have dysmenorrhea. But is it primary or secondary?
Alright. I know what you’re thinking.
I’m playing Google Doctor. Guilty as charged.
I knew I was guilty, and so I did book a call with my doctor, who told me that yes, I had secondary dysmenorrhea. I never had pain this bad when I first started my period, so it couldn’t be primary. So was it caused by my anorexia?
My doctor said that yes, it was.
So, there you go. A doctor confirmed that anorexia causes dysmenorrhea when menses return. He told me I could expect to deal with it for 2-3 years, as my body was essentially experiencing menstruation “for the first time” again. I was relieved to have an answer, and my doctor also ruled out endometriosis, PCOS, and hypothyroidism through some tests.
I have yet to try this beautiful product as I haven’t had a period since my husband bought it for me, but I am excited to eventually try it and report back. I’ve heard amazing things about this all-natural period pain reliever and hope maybe it’s something anyone else out there struggling with dysmenorrhea can successfully try!
If you suffer from dysmenorrhea, you’re not alone. If you suffer from it post-AN recovery, you are also not alone. I know I was extremely concerned about my fertility and health because of it, but it appears that it’s a normal and almost expected response to a period returning post-starvation.