How does stress affect periods?
Stress is something we all experience from time to time, and it can often have a negative impact on us both physically and mentally.
Whether it be a change in mood, an increase in blood pressure, or a change in appetite, there’s usually something else in our life that takes a little turn for the worse when we’re feeling under pressure.
It’s therefore unsurprising to know that stress can also impact your menstrual cycle in a number of ways. Having said this, these problems are usually minor, so try to relax and trust your body to do what it needs to do!
Can stress delay your period?
It’s common for stress to cause an irregular cycle, so don’t panic if you’re late, early or even miss a month altogether during a particularly intense period (pardon the pun). A link has also been found between women who have stressful careers and short cycles1, but why is this?
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that controls your hormone levels, and this is why high levels of stress can often completely throw off your cycle2. If you’re going through a particularly stressful time, the hypothalamus can also make the call to cut off your period completely – it’s simply a way of your brain saying you can’t handle a baby right now!
Can stress cause spotting?
Yes, stress can also cause spotting between periods. Also linked to the hypothalamus, it usually means your hormones are getting confused about whether ovulation should happen or not. It can be pretty alarming when you notice bleeding mid cycle, but again, it’s probably nothing you should fret over unless it happens frequently. If you’re concerned at all, then contact your GP for some expert advice.
Can stress make my PMS worse?
To add yet another inconvenience to the list, stress can also intensify PMS symptoms. According to a study3, there is a link between stress and dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation), which explains the upsurge in pain when you’re going through a difficult time. It’s a real pain, but nothing that should worry you too much. Check out our article on how to prevent period pains for some top tips.
How to manage stress on your period
Whilst some stress is unavoidable, it’s essential to put some time aside to help manage it properly – particularly around that time of the month!
Although it might be the last thing on your mind, getting into a routine when it comes to exercising is always beneficial. Exercise is proven to be a significant stress reliever, and can also boost your mood and help period pain. This could include a brisk walk, a light stretch or even a gentle swim.
It’s also important to track your cycle so that in the days leading up to your period you can prioritise a winding down routine. This could include some meditation before bed, or simply taking some extra time out of your day to relax and switch off.
While stress affecting your period is usually minor and is often nothing to be too alarmed about, never be afraid to call your doctor if things become particularly intense. After all, it’s better to be safe!
1Fenster, L., Waller, K., Chen, J., Hubbard, A. E., Windham, G. C., Elkin, E., & Swan, S. (1999). Psychological stress in the workplace and menstrual function. American Journal of Epidemiology, 149(2), 127–134.
3Wang L, Wang X, Wang W, et al. (2004) Stress and dysmenorrhoea: a population based prospective study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61:1021-1026.