Tuesday, October 4, 2022

How Does Stress Affect Your Period

Can Stress Delay Your Period Yes And Its A Common Reason

How stress affects your period hormones
  • Its normal for stress to delay a period, or even cause you to skip it entirely.
  • Stress hormones are known to affect menstruation, and research has found that those with higher levels of perceived stress are more likely to miss a period.
  • If your period is irregular or doesnt occur for three months, you should talk with a gynecologist.

The majority of the time, periods arrive like clockwork. But sometimes, periods are late or skipped entirely.

There are all sorts of reasons for a missed period. Pregnancy tops the list, of course. But other factors including taking some medications, hormonal issues, and menopause can also delay your period.

In fact, stress is a common reason for a period that doesnt arrive on schedule.

A womans menstrual cycle can be a great barometer for her stress level both acute stress and chronic stress, says Lisa Valle, DO, OB/GYN at Providence Saint Johns Health Center.

How Stress Affects Your Cycle

Prolonged or excessive stress can wreak havoc on both your mind and your body. For women, stress can even disrupt their menstrual cycle. While there are countless factors that can cause you to have an abnormal period, including over exercise, pregnancy, certain medical conditions and weight changes, the impact of stress can be less obvious. However, your stress level can play a very strong role in your reproductive function heres how.

When you experience stress for long periods of time, your body consistently releases higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. This extra cortisol increases brain function but it decreases other nonessential functions in the body. Unfortunately, your brain considers the reproductive functions as nonessential. In turn, your brain signals your body to stop or slow the production of estrogen and progesterone. As you may know, these female hormones are the driving factors for a normal, 28 day menstrual cycle.

The suppression of the reproductive hormones doesnt necessarily mean you will stop having periods altogether when you are stressed out. Often, women may experience spotting before their period, a lighter flow or a shorter period. It is always important to recognize changes in your menstrual cycle and discuss them with your physician. While one or two months of an abnormal period may not be cause for concern, if it is a consistent issue, your physician will need to investigate further.

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How To Prevent Stress From Delaying Your Period

The first step in preventing stress from delaying your period is to understand whats causing your stress and how much stress you can manage. You may not always be able to avoid stress, but you can develop healthy ways to cope with it. Tracking your cycle and any changes you experience in your moods will make it easier to identify any issues that may arise so you can better understand why your period is late.

While stress is a common cause for a late period, it is just one of many potential reasons for a delay in menstruation. Pregnancy, hormonal birth control, and health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome can also make your period late.

Sometimes the stress of worrying about a potential unintended pregnancy can make your period late. Taking a pregnancy test to find out if you are pregnant can reduce this stress. If your period is late, and youre experiencing symptoms like unwanted hair growth, headaches, weight gain, and difficulty sleeping, you may want to see a health care provider to rule out PCOS, which is a treatable condition.

Tracking your mood, life events, and symptoms in an app like Flo can help you gain perspective on your level of stress, and taking simple measures like exercising or making time for meditation can help you get your period back on track.

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What Happens When You Are Stressed

Stress is strange. Some levels of stress are necessary and helpful to us. For instance, stress helps us get tasks accomplished or push through a workout.

Healthy stress is always short term, and when youve completed the short term activity that was causing the stress, you are rewarded with a feeling of relief.

Chronic stress, like the type youve been experiencing during the pandemic, leads to fatigue, feelings of sadness, and even health problems like higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Take Your Vitamins Daily

How does stress affect your menstrual cycle (and your ...

According to a 2015 study, low levels of vitamin D are linked to hormonal imbalances and irregular periods. In addition, vitamin D also interferes with your ovulatory function affecting your reproductive health.

If you want to ensure a normal menstrual cycle and good reproductive health, then you should not skip your daily dose of vitamins. In return, this will not only keep you stress-free but will also keep that flow going.

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Can Stress Cause A Missed Period

Most of the time, your period arrives on time, but sometimes periods can be missed for so many different reasons.

One of the reasons could take you by surprise, which is possibly being pregnant, of course. But other things like sudden weight changes, starting new hormonal birth control pills, or being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome are a few that could be causing a delay or missed period altogether.

Like stress, depression can also be a reason for a missed period. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, people who experience high levels of stress are at a higher risk of experiencing depression. Depression can lead to a shift in hormones, which can cause amenorrhea, the medical term for a missed period.

How Does Stress Change A Menstrual Cycle

According to Leena Nathan, an OB-GYN at UCLA Health, people may notice their cycles or periods are delayed, or that theyre spotting between periods. While emotional stress like a pandemic can incite these changes, so can physical stressors, like recent weight loss or increased exercise.

The reason stress can alter the menstrual cycle likely has to do with hormones. Nathan says stress causes cortisol levels to go up, which can suppress the hormonal cycle responsible for a persons ovulation and period. When your body is in a time of stress, its really not the best time to get pregnant, so its shutting down, she says.

In many cases, if you arent getting a period, you are also probably not ovulating. But dont take an irregular period as a sign that youre not producing eggs or cant get pregnant. Ovulation usually happens two weeks before a persons period, so Mahalingaiah says even if you havent had a period in a while, theres always a chance you could be ovulating.

If you are not having regular periods, your chance of being pregnant may be lowered, but Id still recommend contraception to prevent pregnancy, says Nathan.

A delayed or missed period can also be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome , which Nathan says usually comes with other symptoms, such as increased hair growth. Other health conditions, like thyroid or endocrine disorders, can also impact the menstrual cycle, according to Millheiser.

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Stress And Pandemic Periods

If your period has been late or irregular, could stress during the COVID-19 pandemic be a factor? Preliminary findings from a UK study suggest that lifestyle changes during lockdown affected female subjects menstrual cycles and symptoms, and stress was the main contributing factor. The study authors say their analysis, which has yet to undergo peer review, is the first to detail the implications of the pandemic on menstrual cycles.

A total of 749 physically active women completed a 33-question survey about their menstrual cycle before and during the lockdown period. More than half52.6%experienced a change in their cycle during lockdown more than third noted a change in bleeding patterns. Those who reported high levels of stress or worry about their own health or that of family members experienced a significantly greater increase in period-related symptoms than other women. Stress related to job security was associated with increases in bleeding time.

It makes sense that the health, financial, and family pressures so many people are experiencing right now count as psychological stress, the kind that can do a number on menstruation. So how can you control your stress response and keep cortisol levels down? Look to stress-reducing activities like meditation of light exercise. We cant reset our cycles without managing ourselves in a way thats more balanced and similar to what it was like before the stress took over, says Dr. Ross.

Factors Affecting Menstrual Cycle

Can stress cause you to miss your period How does stress affect menstruation

Having a regular cycle when it comes to menstruation is really important to womens health. Women tend to plan important events like holidays, birth control , and even important work meetings around their monthly period.

So, when a woman is just about to board the plane for her yearly dream vacation in the Bahamas, the last thing she needs is for her period to turn up. Yet it happens far more often than initially thought, which means that managing stress and anxiety can usually rectify an irregular cycle.

Here are the five primary ways that stressful situations affect the menstrual cycle and, what can be done about it.

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This Is How Stress Affects Your Cycle

Stress can throw off your whole schedule.

Stress can be super useful in certain situations. The natural, biological response is all well and good if youre trying to outrun an angry bear, but your body cant tell the difference between when youre under actual duress versus when youre staring at your miles-long to-do list, paralyzed about where to start. In either situation, stress activatesand interferes withthe part of your brain that controls the hormones responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle.

The hypothalamus-pituitary axis is the communication system in the brain that helps regulate the menstrual cycle. During times of stress, this communication process can be disrupted, resulting in irregular or absent periods, notes Dr. Appel.

When the HPA axis ramps up, cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone increase in response. These two hormones can suppress a reproductive hormone known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone , because why would you want to ovulate when youre running away from a bear? This may cause your cycle to get off track, meaning you could menstruate earlier than normal or your period could be a few days late.

If you track your cycle, youve probably experienced this phenomenon when you have a big exam or an important work project coming up, when youve been exercising too intensely , or if youve been traveling.

Stress can affect ovulation.

Stress can worsen PMS.

< < READ MORE: What actually *is* PMS?> >

What Stress Does To Your Period

When our bodies are stressed day in and day out or suffering from adrenal dysfunction due to the daily burnout we experience without even realizing it our bodies release unhealthy amounts of cortisol .

This is done simply as a self-preservation mechanism. Stress tells our body to protect us, and turn off non-essential tasks, such as ovulation. Except that if we never have a break from the stress signals, our ovaries never get a turn.

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A Normal Cycle Unaffected By Stress

At the start of a typical cycle, one part of the brain must send a message to another part of the brain . This message from the hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone , which has a direct effect on the ovaries: in response to FSH, a follicle within an ovary develops to the point that a mature egg is released. At the same time, estrogen levels increase, triggering a surge in luteinizing hormone , which, at its peak, causes that mature egg to exit the ovary and enter the fallopian tube. This synchronized process is more concisely referred to as ovulationthe pivotal event of the menstrual cycle.

Youve Upped Your Workout Intensity

How Does Stress Affect Your Period

A strenuous exercise regimen can also cause missed periods. This is most common in those who train for several hours a day. It happens because, whether intentionally or not, youre burning way more calories than youre taking in.

When you burn too many calories, your body doesnt have enough energy to keep all its systems running. This can lead to a hormonal imbalance that throws off your menstrual cycle, leading to missed or late periods.

Periods typically go back to normal as soon as you lessen training intensity or increase your caloric intake.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a set of symptoms caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. People with PCOS dont ovulate regularly. As a result, your periods may be lighter than normal, arrive at inconsistent times, or disappear altogether.

Other PCOS symptoms can include:

  • excess or course facial and body hair
  • acne on the face and body
  • thinning hair
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • dark patches of skin, often on the neck creases, groin, and underneath breasts
  • skin tags in the armpits or neck

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Can Stress Make Your Period Late

You might have heard that one of the primary reasons for a missed or late period is stress. Well, yes, stress can affect everything: your physical health, routine, appetite, mood, and your menstrual cycles too. Pretty much everything related to womens health can be affected by stress. Thats why its vital for you to know how stress affects your menstrual cycle and how it can be dangerous for your reproductive health.

Stress usually causes headaches, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and above all, hormonal imbalance. That is where it begins to affect your monthly cycle. Daily life stressors like meeting deadlines like for an assignment, workplace stress, and relationship conflicts can cause your period to be delayed. Even some severe stressors like losing a job or a loved one can cause your period to stop altogether.

This article focuses on everything you need to know about stress and its relation to menstruation and answers your one question, why is my period late.

Check Your Stress Management Plan

If stress is really taking its toll on you, it may be time to review your stress management plan. If you dont have a clear plan for managing your stress, chances are you arent doing anything to help alleviate it.

Whether you decide to practice meditation, take a yoga class, book a day at the spa, or go for a walk, find a method of alleviating your stress that is accessible and enjoyable for prevyou. If you have trouble finding a way to alleviate stress, talk to a professional.

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Extreme Weight Loss And Eating Disorders

Excessive or rapid weight loss can cause your period to stop. Not consuming enough calories can interfere with the production of the hormones needed for ovulation.

Youre considered underweight if you have a body mass index lower than 18.5. Along with stopped periods, you may also experience fatigue, headaches, and hair loss.

See your doctor if:

Cut Back On Caffeine And Alcohol

Does your period make your anxiety worse? | how stress & periods relate

Both alcohol and caffeine can increase cortisol levels, so its recommended that you reduce your intake of both of these when dealing with major life changes, going through a rough patch, or nearing your menstrual cycle. Instead, you might try decaffeinated beverages or herbal teas that are known to have calming effects, such as chamomile or lavender.

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Ways To Help Manage Stress Effectively

We all experience some level of stress in our lives, and its not always possible or realistic to completely eliminate it. But there are steps you can take to change the way it affects you. Taking the time to intentionally relax and focus on yourself can help you better prepare for stressful situations. Some helpful strategies are to:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and prioritize your mental health.

  • Take time for yourself to do the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled.

  • Take time to connect with others and build a social support network.

  • Practice self-care: Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly.

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques.

  • Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed or when the stress in your life feels unmanageable.

Stress management techniques can help to decrease cortisol levels, which has noticeable and positive effects on our mental and physical health.

Depression Can Also Affect Your Period

Like stress, depression can also have an effect on hormones. Depression is one of the factors that can lead to amenorrhea, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The two conditions are often linked people with chronic stress in their life have a higher risk of developing depression, notes the Mayo Clinic.

There’s another consideration when it comes to depression and your period: Some antidepressant medications including SSRIs can increase the levels of a hormone called prolactin, according to a March 2015 review published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. This can delay your period or skip it entirely.

Plus, people experiencing depression often shift their eating habits and experience a loss of appetite. Not eating sufficiently, and having a low body weight, are potential causes of amenorrhea, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If your period is irregular or doesn’t occur at all for more than three months, you should talk to your gynecologist, Livingston says.

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Tips For Getting Your Flow Back

Stress seriously messes with your body. It can cause low energy, headaches, stomach aches, chest pain, and insomnia and thats just in the short term. If youre feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, your flow is probably being affected, too.

While these things are never one-size-fits all, here are a few tips to get your period back on track:

  • Take a breather.Studies show that controlled breathing exercises can help lower blood pressure, boost feelings of well-being, and relieve stress.
  • Get some exercise. OK, so youve definitely heard this one before. But fitting some exercise in can boost your mood and relieve stress.
  • Free up your schedule. Its not always possible to cut down on your responsibilities. But if you can, try to give yourself a break and fit in some self-care.
  • Chat with a mental health expert.Talking to a therapist or another mental health professional can help you work through your stress in a way that works best for your unique needs.

Since everyones different, expect to use some trial-and-error when fighting stress. Youve got this.

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