How Stress Can Affect Your Menstrual Cycle

Stress has become a normal part of life with work demands and pressures on your personal life being two of the major culprits. Although a couple of articles have popped up over the years tackling the benefits of stress, most of those referred to short-term stress.

It’s chronic stress that should have us worried, and for the ladies this means a shift in one’s menstrual cycle. Stress has been shown to bring periods early, but it is also known to prevent the arrival of flow.

Since stress will always be part of life, it’s best to know how it can affect your menstrual cycle and what you can do about it.

Stress and your health

Any change in your environment, be it cultural, emotional, physical, or social in nature, can bring about stress. However, willingly participating in activities that promote stress, like exercise, can have positive health effects.

The kind of stress that brings about negative health effects is of the chronic nature. Demands from work or school plus dealing with a crisis in your personal are all negative forms of stress. This is the type of stress you should learn how to control.

Stress and the reproductive system

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) is a hormonal pathway involving the interactions between three endocrine glands: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. Reactions to stress and regulation of body processes are controlled by the HPA axis.

Increased levels of cortisol (a major stress hormone) and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH; involved in stress response) are linked with the triggering of the HPA axis.

The release of cortisol and CRH lead to abnormal levels of reproductive hormones which result in issues like amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), abnormal ovulation, or no ovulation at all.

Stress and medical literature

There is evidence highlighting how extreme and traumatic events affect normal menstruation. Reports by physicians and epidemiologists have reported cases of amenorrhea in those who have suffered famine, family separation, and war.

While the studies associating menstrual change with traumatic events contain useful information, they do not account for other factors like malnutrition, which happen during tragic events like war.

Some studies have also traced a link between premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) to emotion, physical, and sexual abuse. In addition, PMDD has also been linked with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stress and your job

A study of female nurses found a connection between high stress and the absence of ovulation. The same study also linked high stress with longer cycles.

The findings of the study may be as such due to the nature of a nurse’s work schedule: they work rotating shifts, including being on night duty.

Another study has found women in high stress but low control jobs, ones where they have minimal control over their work load and other decisions, have shorter cycles.

The studies highlighted here show different results because the stress levels from the jobs were very different. The body responds differently to the both the level and length of stress exposure.

Stress and dysmenorrhea

Painful menstruation or dysmenorrheal has been associated with women who work in low control jobs that are unsecure and have little support from coworkers.

A study has also shown that stress from the month prior can affect the frequency of dysmenorrhea. What this means is that some women may experience painful menstruation caused by stress the following month.

Stress and its management

Stress is a fact of life – it can no longer be avoided. But there are ways for you to manage it. Here are a few:

  • Get moving

When you know the day is going to be stressful, schedule a morning workout. But if tensions arose within the day, try to get some physical activity after work.

  • Eat healthy

Even if you’re not a fruits and vegetables type of person, try to incorporate some into your daily meals. It could be as simple as adding fruit to your cereal or having a salad for snacks.

  • Chat with friends and family

Sometimes the simplest solution to relieving stress is to talk to friends or family. Plus, doing fun stuff with them every once in a while helps too.

  • Get enough sleep

Waking up already cranky won’t solve matters. So try to make changes, like using more pillows, to get a restful sleep.

Let’s face it: stress is here to stay, but you should not allow yourself to be too troubled by it. Doing so will only affect your health, including your menstrual cycle. So find time to relax and if it still doesn’t help, see help from a health professional.

 

Copyright free image:
https://pixabay.com/en/hand-keep-font-stress-word-flash-1013521/

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