How many of us find ourselves in stressful situations in our daily lives? The answer is, undoubtedly, almost everyone experiences some amount of stress on a regular basis. For some, there may be an outlet for that stress—taking up a hobby, watching memes on social media, physical activity, or quality time with a fur baby. Others perhaps, sweep things under the rug, or leave it to sort itself out. But the fact remains, if there isn’t an outlet for the stress, it builds up and manifests in various issues with regard to one’s overall health and well-being. For women, one of the major side effects of stress is irregular periods.
If you notice an unusual spotting in between your menstrual cycle, and you’re keeping track that your period arrives either very late or very early and not on the day it’s supposed to, this irregularity is caused due to stress.
Here is how stress affects your menstrual cycle:
- It is well established that stress causes a change in hormones; Cortisol, your body’s natural alarm system, and one that’s responsible for regulating your hormones and sugar levels, will spike if you’re experiencing severe stress. This spike in cortisol suppress the proper functioning of other hormones, which in turn, disrupts ovulation.
- Increased levels of stress, over time, may cause an indefinite delay in your menstrual cycle. However, this should not be confused with pregnancy. It is possible to menstruate without ovulating, an occurrence also known as an anovulatory cycle. This is exactly why it’s advisable to keep track of your period to better understand your ovulation and fertile window.
- Changes in your environment, lifestyle, and diet can also cause some amount of stress, and an irregular or missed period could be your body’s way of reacting to the stressor.
- Extreme cases of stress can also lead to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which in turn can cause other health complications.
- It is recommended that before you identify your stressors, you should first rule out pregnancy by taking a pregnancy test. Depending upon the results you can reach out to your doctor.
Now that we have listed out some of the effects of stress on your period, the next and perhaps the most important part is to get your cycle back on track? Experts suggest the following ways:
- While you cannot control the everyday stressors, what you can control is your response to them. Try to approach a seemingly stressful situation with a calm mind, and look for solutions instead of letting the stress get the better of you.
- Keep a track of your menstrual cycle and pay special attention when you notice a consistently odd pattern in between or during your cycle.
- A natural way to control your cycle is to maintain your Body Mass Index (BMI) between the normal ranges of 20 to 25, as fluctuating weight can also cause irregular periods.
- Sleep is the most important aspect as it gives the body its much needed rest time to restore itself. Therefore, a minimum of six to eight hours of sleep is necessary.
- For those leading high-stress or fast lifestyles, Dr Meenakshi Sauhta, obstetrician, gynaecologist, endoscopic surgeon, and director at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, says, “It is very important to understand how your lifestyle is impacting your health. Understand factors in and around you that are causing you stress, and if needed, take a step back to take control of your mind and body. Make you and your health a priority.”
- Diet and exercise play a very important role in keeping your body and mind in check. A healthy diet along with any form of exercise for at least 40 to 45 minutes, four times a week, will help you manage your stress to a large extent. Dr Vaishali Joshi, senior obstetrician and gynaecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital suggests, “The first step to a healthy lifestyle is finding ways to distress. Yoga, meditation, physical activity, or just taking a break from stressful toxic environments will help reset your system.”
- For those who have missed their period and are not pregnant, you may consult your doctor to assess the problem and prescribe appropriate medication, if need be.