How Does CKD Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) comes with unique challenges to your health. These challenges include possible changes to your period (menstrual cycle) and ability to get pregnant (fertility). Experts are still learning more about the link. But they have found some causes of menstrual cycle problems and how to treat these problems.1

How CKD impacts your period

With CKD, irregular periods are common. This could mean:2,3

  • Missed periods
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Menopause that happens earlier than usual

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Researchers analyzed 35 studies on people with CKD who also get their period. Between 19 and 75 percent of those receiving dialysis had irregular periods, depending on the type of treatment.1

You are also less likely to get pregnant when you have CKD. And if you do become pregnant, there is a higher chance of problems. For example:3

  • You could get high blood pressure
  • Your baby could be born early
  • Your kidneys may stop working properly
  • You could need dialysis

Why does CKD affect your menstrual cycle?

There are 2 main reasons CKD can cause problems with your period and fertility:

Hormone changes

CKD causes changes in hormones linked to your period. Worsening kidney failure affects certain hormones that help you ovulate (release an egg). In a study of 57 teen girls with severe CKD who were also on dialysis, nearly half had high levels of a hormone called prolactin in their blood. Too much prolactin can signal the brain to stop the release of another hormone, which causes problems with your period.2

CKD medicines

Some people with CKD or those who have had a kidney transplant take medicines to suppress their immune system. These medicines can:2

  • Cause irregular periods
  • Affect your ability to get pregnant
  • Harm an unborn baby

Managing menstrual cycle problems with CKD

Treatments for CKD-related problems with menstrual cycles and fertility include:

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is one way to improve irregular periods in the short term. Doctors do this by prescribing you hormonal birth control. These treatments can control or stop bleeding, whether heavy or irregular.2

This kind of birth control contains either progestin alone or a combination of estrogen and progestin. It is important to note that estrogen therapy raises your chances of blood clots and other health problems.2

Hormonal birth control comes in many forms:2

  • IUD
  • Injection (shot)
  • Implant
  • Pills
  • Patches
  • Vaginal ring

Kidney transplant

A kidney transplant can help restore regular periods and your overall health. Researchers have found that the rate of irregular periods in people with CKD drops between 7 and 30 percent after they have a kidney transplant.1

This or That

In addition to chronic kidney disease, do you also live with diabetes?

With regular periods, you may also be able to get pregnant and have a child after a kidney transplant. But experts suggest waiting at least a year after the transplant to get pregnant. Some medicines you take after a kidney transplant can harm an unborn baby. Or there is a chance that you can lose the transplant. Talk to your doctor before trying to get pregnant.4

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.

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