Extremely low body fat can cause a woman to stop menstruating and, of course, that means she can't get pregnant until her cycle returns.
Now, a landmark study shows the hormone Leptin may be the signal that tells the brain there is enough body fat or enough energy available to reproduce. That's according to new research from Massachusetts General Hospital.
"When we started giving them Leptin, suddenly they started to grow eggs. They started to have ovulations again, and they started to menstruate. They felt like normal women for the first time in a long time," says Dr. Corrine Welt, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"For once in almost 20 years, I was having regular periods. There was nothing that was changed in my diet, in my regular routine, other than taking this drug," says Gretchen Dobson, a Leptin study participant. Gretchen is still trying to get pregnant, but at least it's possible now, because finally, she is having regular periods again.
Leptin is not yet FDA approved and at this point, it's still investigational. Dr. Welt says more studies are needed to look at specific factors like dosing before Leptin could be available to the public.