Feeling like you are living inside a movie? Nothing feels normal at the moment, the global coronavirus pandemic has affected all our lives. Everything from daily work, education, social lives, mental health and now periods could be affected.
The anxiety caused by the uncertainty of coronavirus has led to increasing stress levels and it could be impacting your menstrual cycle.
Since the menstrual cycle shows that a woman’s hormones are working properly, having a regular menstrual cycle shows that the body is healthy.
Sudden or in this case, prolonged stress can have great effects on the reproductive hormones. It usually interferes with how the ovaries function in making progesterone and estrogen. Besides making your periods late, stress may also have effects on the menstrual cycle in several other ways.
Late periods: This happens when the eggs grow and the ovaries make estrogen but it takes longer time for one to ovulate. In such instances, the first part of the menstrual cycle shall be much longer and the menstrual cycle shall be late (known as oligomenorrhea). You’ll bleed for about 12-14 days after ovulating as a result of the effects of stress levels on the reproductive hormones.
Missed periods: This happens when the ovaries make less estrogen. As such, the uterus lining does not grow at all. As a result, you won’t have a period in that cycle (known as hypothalamic amenorrhea) because you won’t have the uterine lining for shedding. This is an extreme result of effects of stress.
Irregular periods: In such instances, the eggs will grow and you will make enough estrogen levels but you do not ovulate. In such instances, the uterus lining uterus will eventually break down and eventually shed off. The bleeding might come very early or even late, and you might bleed on/off for some time. The extent of bleeding usually depends on the extent to which the uterine lining has been stimulated by the oestrogen.
So if your period is late or has just not arrived, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are pregnant. It could just be stress doing its thing.
While there is little scientific research to prove a direct connection between stress and menstrual cycle disruption (as other associated factors may come into play), war, separation from family, arguments with loved ones and famine have been linked to amenorrhea in physician and epidemiological reports.
Your Normal Cycle Could Get Shorter or Longer
Additionally, daily life stress may also affect the length of your cycle. One study of stress in female nurses found associations between high stress and anovulation (when ovulation does not take place) as well as high stress and longer cycles. Conversely, high stress but low control jobs, where the person has little control over their work tasks and other key decisions, have been associated with shorter cycles.
Mood Swings In Lockdown
The last thing we want to deal with in lockdown are the dreaded mood swings and period pain. Increased menstrual pain could be one side effect of this stressful situation.
However, you may not see this kind of effect until later down the line. Stress from the preceding month may also affect the frequency of dysmenorrhea, so someone might not experience painful menstruation as a result of stress until their period the following month.
If stress is the main cause of your irregular or late periods, then managing and reducing it might get your menstrual cycles back to their normal state. You should examine the sources of your stress and then take steps to eliminate or control them. If you can’t change the source of your stress, you should learn how to cope with them to reduce the effects on the hypothalamus.
Any stress management techniques might make a big difference, provided that you learn and also practice it well on regular basis until your period becomes regular. Just tap into techniques like meditation, imagery or passive muscle relaxation.
Relaxation techniques have been scientifically proven to be capable of changing the physiologic response of the body to stress. If relaxation techniques fail to make your cycles regular, you should consult your doctor.
From a mental health point of view, if you are feeling mentally impacted by the coronavirus news, the best thing to do is to focus on yourself and practice some self care. Instead of staying glued to the latest COVID-19 updates, allow yourself to check the news at certain times of day. Try to fit some stretching and deep breathing into each day. If you live with partners, roommates or family, take this time to connect and nurture your relationships. Check in with friends and neighbours over phone or video all which might help someone cope and help you feel connected.
Why Abnormal Cycles Matter
No periods (also known as hypothalamic amenorrhea): If your cycle is late as a result of having low estrogen levels for more than 6 months, your bones might begin thinning. This will put you at a risk for osteoporosis.
Late or irregular cycles: The uterus lining might grow abnormally and in turn put you at a risk for developing uterus cancer. This happens in case your periods are continuously late for 3 cycles or you’re bleeding on/off for three or more cycles.
In you experience heavy bleeding or it lasts over 10 days, it could be a sign of abnormal uterine lining.
When To Call Your G.P.
Any level of stress might cause the menstrual cycles to be irregular or late. The effects as well as how long it will last depends on the stress level and how you can cope with it. Ensure that you speak with your G.P. – you should call the surgery and your Doctor will call you back – or do the home pregnancy test in case there’s any chance that you could be pregnant.
If you aren’t pregnant, you should keep good records of your menstrual cycles and any related symptom for three months. If your menstrual cycle continues to be abnormal, see your G.P. for preliminary evaluation that could just be a simple body examination or hormonal testing, if the need arises.
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