Stress and menstruation: what is the impact on the menstrual cycle?

Do your periods tend to be late? Your periods to be absent? Or more painful? The menstrual cycle can quickly be disrupted by various factors: hormones but also the famous stress, nowadays omnipresent in the daily life of a good number of people. Its consequences can alter your daily life, but also the good progress of your menstrual periods. But then how to get out of it? We talk about it in this article.

Does stress affect menstruation and the menstrual cycle?

Stressful situations can take many forms. In fact, in a stressful situation and in order to cope with it, the body will secrete hormones in quantities that are too high compared to usual. It is in fact the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) that are the causes of the problem! Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands. Basically, cortisol is a vital hormone that has several functions, including regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, participating in bone development and acting as a natural anti-inflammatory. When you are stressed, cortisol is released in large quantities into the bloodstream, which can influence several mechanisms, including

  • the secretions of hormones of the female cycle: progesterone and estrogen, which impacts ovulation
  • the thyroid function (cortisol will stop the secretion of TSH and thus prevent the thyroid gland from secreting the T4 hormone which has effects on the ovarian function)
  • the production of GABA which is a neurotransmitter that reduces menstrual pain.

Physical stress due to too much and repetitive physical activity as well as a sudden weight loss can have an effect on the menstrual cycle and accentuate menstrual symptoms.

What causes increased stress during menstruation?

It is very common for women to be stressed during their menstrual cycle. Again, it's all about hormones. But there may be things that happen afterwards that make the anxiety worse during this time. These can be simple things in life, such as an exam deadline, or more serious things such as illness, bereavement or something else.
Some women may also be anxious, especially if they suffer from painful premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful periods or a heavy, uncontrolled flow of menstrual blood that makes it difficult for them to get through their day. Except that stressing about these things has a snowball effect and the anxiety only increases, causing a variety of repercussions.

What are the effects of stress on menstruation?

When you are exposed to prolonged anxiety, there are repercussions on the cycle.

Few or no periods

Too much cortisol affectsovulation and can interrupt it. If ovulation is interrupted, menstrual bleeding may be delayed or even disappear in some cases. If this absence of menstruation lasts more than three months, it is 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 period, you must first rule out any external cause such as

  • Pregnancy, if you have any doubt do not hesitate to do a test
  • Prolonged breastfeeding (since with lactation, women do not have menstrual discharge and do not ovulate)
  • Hormonal contraception: the pill, the implant or the IUD can cause an absence of menstrual flow or very light bleeding
  • Surgery on the uterus
  • Menopause, whether early or biological
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or ovarian dystrophy
  • Certain autoimmune diseases
  • Anorexia

If you still have your periods but they are less abundant, this may also be due to psychological stress. Indeed, this will have repercussions on the ovaries. This will cause ovarian insufficiency, which will result in a reduction of the abundant menstrual flow.

Irregular periods

If your cycle lasts sometimes 50 days, then 20 and that it repeats itself over several cycles, you suffer 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 is coming, it can create a vicious cycle of not knowing when it's coming, which makes it even more irregular. If stress triggers your period and it comes too close together, it can lead to exhaustion, especially from iron loss.

Don't hesitate to seek help if you are unsure! Only a doctor or health care professional can make a diagnosis.

Painful periods

Studies have shown that anxiety can make menstruation more painful, and that women exposed to intense anxiety are twice as likely to suffer from dysmenorrhea. For many women, stress causes much more pain in the menstrual and proliferative phases.
The symptoms of PMS can also be accentuated: during a stressful period, it is common to have, for example, more menstrual cramps.

Our tips for limiting the impact of stress on your period!

If your menstrual problems are related to a stressful situation, then you can look at this as good news: the problems are reversible! You can try to identify where this anxiety comes from by following these tips.

Practice a sport activity

Regular physical activity allows you to relax, release endorphins and thus reduce your anxiety. It's up to you to find the sport that suits you, some practices are particularly effective in relaxing and finding a certain harmony between body and mind, such as yoga.

Sleep at regular hours

Sleeping at night at regular hours allows you to regulate your physical and emotional balance, whereas a tired body and mind is more likely to be stressed and affected by external elements. Favour 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 problem on the surface in case of painful or irregular periods. On the other hand, chronic anxiety will always be present. But taking hormones will help to make the effects on menstrual discharge (almost) disappear.

The FAQ of stress and menstruation

Why does stress block your period?

Cortisol will affect the menstrual cycle and 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 menstruation?

Just as anxiety can block periods, it can also trigger them. In fact, in general, stress disrupts the entire hormonal cycle, so it can cause early menstruation but also delay it.

How to de-stress to get your period?

Fortunately, the consequences of stress on menstruation are reversible. There are many solutions: a good night's sleep, physical activity, relaxation, meditation... If your problems related to the menstrual cycle persist, consult your doctor, gynecologist or health professional who will be able to suggest an appropriate treatment.

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