Stress and periods : what is the impact on the menstrual cycle?
Does stress affect periods and the menstrual cycle?
Stressful situations can take many forms. In fact, in a stressful situation and to cope with it, the body will secrete hormones in excess of its usual levels. In fact, it's the secretion of adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone) that causes the problem! Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands. Basically, cortisol is a vital hormone with many functions, including regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, participating in bone development and acting as a natural anti-inflammatory. When you're stressed, cortisol is released in large quantities into the bloodstream, which can influence several mechanisms, in particular:
- secretions of female cycle hormones: progesterone and estrogen, which affect ovulation
- thyroid function (cortisol stops TSH secretion, preventing the thyroid gland from secreting T4 hormone, which affects ovarian function)
- production of GABA, a neurotransmitter which reduces menstrual pain.
The physical stress of repetitive, intense physical activity and abrupt weight loss can affect the menstrual cycle, accentuating the symptoms of periods.
What are the causes of increased stress during periods ?
It's very common for women to feel stressed during their menstrual cycle. Here again, it's all a question of hormones. But later elements can make anxiety worse during this period. These can be simple things in life, such as exam deadlines, or more serious things like illness, bereavement or the like.
Some women can also be anxious, especially if they suffer from painful premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painfulperiods or an abundant, anarchic menstrual flow that prevents them from living their daily lives as they should. Except that stressing for these reasons has a snowball effect, and the anxious state only increases, causing a variety of repercussions.
How does stress affect periods ?
Prolonged exposure to anxiety has repercussions on the cycle.
Little or no periods
Cortisol levels that are too high have an impact onovulation, and can even interrupt it. If ovulation is interrupted, menstrual bleeding may be delayed or, in some cases, even disappear. If this absence of periods lasts longer than three months, it's called amenorrhea. But the absence of menstrual flow can also be due topsychological factors, such as shock, depression or anxiety.
If you no longer have your periods, the first thing to do is to rule out any external causes, such as :
- If in doubt about a pregnancy, don't hesitate to take a pregnancy test.
- Prolonged breastfeeding (since lactation means no menstrual discharge and no ovulation)
- Hormonal contraception: the pill, implant or IUD can cause an absence of menstrual flow or very light bleeding.
- Uterine surgery
- Early or biological menopause
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or ovarian dystrophy
- Certain autoimmune diseases
If you still have your periods but they are less abundant, this may also be due to psychological stress. Psychological stress has an impact on the ovaries. This causes ovarian insufficiency, which in turn reduces the abundant menstrual flow.
If your cycle sometimes lasts 50 days, then 20, and then repeats itself over several cycles, you're suffering from irregular cycles. Consult a gynecologist who will be able to point you in the right direction: irregular cycles can certainly be due to stress, but other factors can also come into play, such as PCOS or an ovarian cyst.
If you never know when your period will arrive, this can create a vicious circle of anxiety about not knowing when they're approaching, making them even more irregular. If stress triggers your periods and they come too close together, this can lead to exhaustion, particularly from iron loss.
Don't hesitate to seek advice if in doubt! Only a doctor or healthcare professional can make a diagnosis.
Studies have shown that anxiety can make periods more painful, and that women exposed to intense anxiety are twice as likely to suffer from dysmenorrhea. For many women, stress makes the menstrual and proliferative phases much more painful.
PMS symptoms can also be accentuated: during a stressful period, for example, it's common to experience more severe menstrual cramps.
Our tips for limiting the impact of stress on your periods !
If your menstrual troubles are linked to a stressful situation, then you can look on this as good news: the troubles are reversible! You can try to identify the source of your anxiety by following these tips.
Practice a sporting activity
Regular exercise helps you relax, release endorphins and reduce anxiety. It's up to you to find the sport that's right for you. Some practices, such as yoga, are particularly effective in helping you relax and rediscover a certain harmony between body and mind.
Sleep at regular hours
Sleeping at night at regular hours helps to regulate physical and emotional balance, whereas a tired body and mind are more likely to be stressed and affected by external elements. Choose a sleep duration of around 8 hours!
Alternative medicine: sophrology and homeopathy
Modern and non-traditional medicines such as meditation, sophrology, acupuncture, homeopathy and phytotherapy can considerably reduce stress!
Taking a hormonal contraceptive
Taking a hormonal contraceptive, such as the pill, can solve the surface problem if periods is too painful or irregular. On the other hand, chronic anxiety will always be present. But taking hormones will help to (almost) eliminate the effects on menstrual discharge.
The FAQ of stress and periods
Why does stress block periods ?
Cortisol will have an impact on the menstrual cycle and on the secretion of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can delay or completely block ovulation. This is why menstruation may not appear.
Can stress cause periods ?
Just as anxiety can block periods, it can also trigger them. In fact, in general, stress disrupts the entire hormonal cycle, so it can both bring on early menstruation and delay it.
How to de-stress to get your periods ?
Fortunately, the effects of stress on menstruation are reversible. There are many solutions: a good night's sleep, physical activity, relaxation, meditation... If your menstrual cycle problems persist, consult your doctor, gynaecologist or health professional, who will be able to suggest a suitable treatment.
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