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Been noticing changes in your menstrual cycle? Stress could be behind it

Stress can have a tangible effect on your health and it can also negatively affect your menstrual cycle.
mental illness
Our environment plays a role in determining our mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 4 May 2021, 05:02 pm IST
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Have you been experiencing scanty or irregular periods? To reassure you, it isn’t uncommon. Many women go through this. Your period is an intricate and sensitive process that can get affected by various factors such as an improper diet, a hectic lifestyle, and stress. 

We’ve all been through times when stress gets the better of us, negatively affecting the sleep cycle, blood pressure, sex drive and of course, your menstrual cycle.

Yes, ladies, the female reproductive system can be affected by stress. In fact, stress can play a role in causing irregular or missed periods. According to the US-based Office on Women’s Health, women with anxiety disorders are more likely to have shorter menstrual cycles or lighter flows. 

Let’s find out why stress impacts your menstrual cycle

Regulation of the menstrual cycle is controlled by a complex hormonal balance. But, stress leads to changes in the body, including changes in the level of hormones. The hormonal imbalance interferes with the menstrual cycle. Apart from this, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, both parts of the brain, control the menstrual cycle. They are sensitive to external factors like exercise, sleep, and stress. When you’re under stress, your body makes a hormone called cortisol which can wreak havoc on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This results in irregular or scanty periods.

stress and periods
Stress can cause hormonal imbalance in your body. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also, Read: Your periods can be extremely uncomfortable if you don’t avoid these 10 things

Here are 5 ways in which stress can make changes to your menstrual cycle:
1. Stress can affect periods by causing mood swings

Due to stress, your body produces low levels of serotonin which is linked with irritability and sadness. An extreme level of stress can exacerbate the mood swings associated with our periods. 

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2. Stress may lead irregular menstrual cycle

Stress and anxiety induce hormonal changes which can cause irregular periods. When you’re under stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol which directly affects the level of oestrogen and progesterone. It can also affect the timing of your menstrual cycle. An irregular cycle can be of 2 types:

  • Polymenorrhea: When the menstrual cycle is shorter than 21 days, it is called polymenorrhea. A normal menstrual cycle is anywhere between 24 to 38 days.
  • Oligomenorrhea: It is characterised by menstrual cycles that are too long and occurs fewer than 6 to 8 periods per year.
3. Painful menstruation

Menstrual pain is sometimes associated with stress. If you’re more stressed than usual, the adrenal gland releases the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. This can trigger abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps.

stress and periods
Stress can make your period cramps worse. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
4. Amenorrhea

In some cases, stress can lead to amenorrhea where you’ll start missing your periods. But, if you miss 3 three or more periods, you should see a doctor.

5. Premenstrual syndrome

Often, women with high levels of stress might complain about premenstrual syndrome. PMS symptoms include body ache, bloating, low back pain, cramps, and headache.

To sum it up

Everyone experiences stress from time to time in their lives, but it can take a serious toll on your menstrual period and on your health. So, take active steps to reduce stress levels.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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