Being a contemporary woman definitely has its perks. But it is also true that modern lives are dotted with stressful triggers that constantly affect our cortisol levels, impacting moods negatively and also wreaking havoc on menstrual cycles. The length as well as quality of menstruation is affected by stress leading to irregular periods, oscillating flow between heavy and light and even spotting. With rising stress levels, the period may even temporarily halt, a condition called secondary amenorrhea.
The hormones in a woman’s body responsible for maintaining menstrual health and regularity, fluctuate throughout the month to - Trigger off ovulation / Build the womb’s lining to prepare for a pregnancy / Maintain a pregnancy / Activate menstruation in case of absence of pregnancy. In case of any hormonal imbalance, the menstrual cycle goes haywire too. Since stress affects the pituitary gland- the part of the brain responsible for producing and balancing hormones, it’s natural for stress to throw hormonal levels out of whack, directly impacting the cycle of the female reproductive system.
Since a regular cycle is important to women’s physical and mental/emotional well-being, properly managing anxiety is essential. Here’s the low-down on how menstrual cycle stress can be correctly tackled:
1. Ovulation Delays
When stress happens in the time leading up to ovulation, the body’s hormones deviate from their usual functioning. This could pause ovulation, or cause delayed ovulation and untimely / unpredictable periods, erratic cycles, etc. Additional worries of something being wrong bring on an unnecessary anxiety loop.
2. Awry cycles
A common side effect of stress is longer or shorter cycles than usual. Delayed ovulation may cause a longer-than-usual menstrual cycle which may be accompanied by a heavy, uncomfortable flow. The next cycle’s onset could happen late, creating extra stress due to the guessing game of when and for how long the next period will be. Stressful situations also increase menstrual cramps, cause bloating and abdominal discomfort, less/no bleeding, heavy bleeding, etc.
In the event of heavy bleeding when regular sanitary pads don’t serve the purpose, try switching to extra long sanitary pads as they work much better. Most sanitary napkins brands today offer varied sizes and types, making life much easier for menstruating women.
3. Pregnancy woes
Stress brings on inconsistent ovulation and impacts fertility. A tricky ‘anxiety’ situation is that sometimes even though the period happens normally, “actual ovulation” may not occur. This becomes a huge cause of concern for those trying to get pregnant, because while the menstrual cycle happens as usual, actually conceiving becomes difficult.
4. Worsening PMS
Anxiety and stress cocktailed with fluctuating hormones and vacillating mood swings is a disaster recipe for a woman’s mental, physical and menstrual health. Premenstrual syndrome tends to worsen, sometimes getting so nasty that it causes heavy bleeding, depression and even panic or anxiety attacks.
How to cope ?
If all these aspects resonate with you, identify and assess your stress triggers and practice coping and calming techniques. Some tips to manage and lower stress levels include:
- Regular exercise, Yoga (Try the specific stress-busting, happy-hormone asanas!)
- Mindful meditation
- Sufficient sleep (7 hours minimum)
- Healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, essential fatty acids and nutrients that focus on brain health, this will ensure balanced hormones
- Relaxing, mood-enhancing activities like listening to music, painting, dancing, swimming, or just about any fun activity that floats your boat!
Discussing your worries with loved ones – A significant stress buster for overall mental wellbeing
"There is no magic formula to eliminate stress completely from our lives, but acknowledging and managing it correctly can go a long way - Not only in regulating your menstrual cycle, but in contributing to your overall mental happiness and welfare."