Everyone has been talking about the covid-19 pandemic leading to a host of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Most of it stems from issues such as financial insecurity, the uncertainty about when this is going to end, the fear of getting infected, and the constant news about negligence during the hospitalization and treatment of coronavirus patients.
But have you ever wondered whether this mismanaged stress can impact your reproductive health?
“Stress does correlate with fertility and the overall reproductive health of a woman. Any type of stress can take its toll on the body and if unmanaged, chronic stress is so powerful that it can lead to a severe hormonal imbalance in your body,” says Dr. Ranjana Sharma, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
“Once your body gets into a state of chronic stress, it starts using up your progesterone and transforms it into cortisol which is the stress hormone,” she adds.
This can affect the reproductive health of a woman in the following ways, as explained by Dr. Pathania:
1. It can mess up your menstrual cycle
Chronic stress that builds up over time can change the balance of hormones in the body, disrupting the normal menstruation cycle. The result may be an irregular cycle including periods that are sporadically heavy or light, late, or even missed entirely.
2. The weight gain from stress can worsen your case
In times of stress, one tends to gain weight as the physical activity is less and the consumption of high-calorie foods to combat stress increases. This can lead to obesity, which is known to have a negative impact on a woman’s fertility by leading to several hormonal problems such as polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) and if severe, it can lead to problems in conceiving or even infertility in women.
3. Full-fledged fertility issues cannot be ruled out
Chronic stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and even otherwise leads to the overproduction of the alpha-amylase enzyme in the body. This enzyme can cause fertility issues in women.
4. Your sex life might have to take the hit as well
Increased cortisol levels during the period of stress can interfere with the hormones that orchestrate the sexual response. This can sometimes lead to a decreased sex drive. Also, high levels of stress can affect blood flow and lead to vaginal dryness, another vaginal health symptom that can make intercourse less satisfying or more painful.
5. It can increase the chances of a miscarriage
If you’re pregnant, you’ve got to know that increased stress can lead to miscarriage and pregnancy complications due to the various hormonal imbalances that chronic stress is capable of causing. Hence, you’ve got to be extra careful if you’re an expecting mother in these times.
So, how can you keep the covid-19 stress from affecting your reproductive health?
Dr. Pathania suggests the following stress-management techniques to keep your reproductive health from taking the hit due to the overwhelming covid stress:
i) Maintain a daily routine and stick to it seriously.
ii) Exercise daily as it can reduce stress, improve your mood, and lead to a boost in overall health. It can also help you sleep better.
iii) Stay connected with your loved ones.
iv) Find ways to relax. Meditation is a great way.
v) Develop new interests and hobbies as having a sense of adventure can help you reduce stress.
vi) Get enough rest and sleep well.
vii) Eat healthy, balanced meals as your body needs good nutrition to fight the effects of stress.
viii) Avoid alcohol.
ix) Get professional help through telemedicine whenever needed
So, ladies, the times are tough but you have to be tougher to make sure your reproductive health stays well!