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  • Writer's pictureGrace Health

Can Stress Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Stress affects our mental health and in extreme cases our physical health too. Everyone has experienced some kind of stress at some point in their lives and depending on the reason and timing, stress can also affect the menstrual cycle. If you’ve recently missed your predicted period date you must have wondered, ‘Is it stress-related?’ Well, it could be, but many other factors could cause a delayed or missed period. This post will specifically look at how stress impacts your menstrual cycle.

How much stress is too much?

There’s everyday stress, and then there’s the type of stress that will cause a delay in your period. There are various levels of stress ranging from misplacing your keys to being unable to meet your bills. When most people talk about stress, however, they are usually referring to overwhelming demands at school and in severe cases, the death or loss of a loved one. People experiencing chronic stress may find it difficult to go about their daily tasks, they might have little-to-no control over the direction of their life and are more easily angered or irritated. This type of chronic stress can negatively affect a person’s menstrual cycle.

How does stress affect your menstrual cycle?

Is there a relationship between when your period shows up and stress? How does all this happen? To understand, we’ll need to think of it from a scientific perspective. The part of the brain that controls your period is known as the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is sensitive to things like; diet, exercise, sleep and stress. If everything is working as per usual, the hypothalamus will release chemicals that stimulate the ovary to release the hormones responsible for your period.

In addition to this, the cortisol hormone is often produced when you are under stress. Depending on the stress levels, it is known to cause a delayed or missed period. Women and girls alike can experience more problematic periods if they experience constant stress over a prolonged time.

What menstrual changes are associated with stress?

As we have already covered, high amounts of stress can affect someone’s cycle length and the symptoms they experience during their menstrual cycle.

High-stress levels could lead to:

  • Painful periods

  • Premenstrual syndrome(PMS) symptoms - E.g; bloating, tender breasts, nausea and weight changes.

  • Irregular menstrual cycles - Shorter or longer cycles.

High levels of stress could also stop ovulation and eventually stop menstruation altogether. When this happens, think of it as a way for the body to protect you from what could be an unhealthy period.

When should you see a doctor?

The first thing to do is to rule out pregnancy as a reason for delayed or missed periods. The next step is to observe if you have consecutively missed three periods or if your period has changed significantly in terms of length. If the above happens, then it’s time to seek medical attention.

How do you get back on track?

Well, since your menstrual cycle is a vital sign to general health, it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience persistent period irregularities. Your doctor is likely to recommend contraceptive hormones to correct and regulate your cycle. Before they do, they could recommend ways to de-stress and naturally bring down the cortisol levels. This may include:

  • Good nutrition

  • Exercise

  • Quality sleep

  • Meditation

  • Laughter

Reducing your level of stress or finding effective coping mechanisms may help your body revert to a normal menstrual period. Even though it’s not possible to eliminate stress from your everyday life, finding healthy ways to deal with excessive stress is the best way to not let it disrupt your menstrual cycle.

Practice listening to your body to find out your stress triggers so that you are able to anticipate and deal with them.

What have you learned from this blog post? Share in the comment section.

Stay informed, stay in control

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