How Stress Affects Your Cycle

Prolonged or excessive stress can wreak havoc on both your mind and your body. For women, stress can even disrupt their menstrual cycle. While there are countless factors that can cause you to have an abnormal period, including over exercise, pregnancy, certain medical conditions and weight changes, the impact of stress can be less obvious. However, your stress level can play a very strong role in your reproductive function – here’s how.


When you experience stress for long periods of time, your body consistently releases higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. This extra cortisol increases brain function (to deal with the stress) but it decreases other “nonessential” functions in the body. Unfortunately, your brain considers the reproductive functions as “nonessential.” In turn, your brain signals your body to stop or slow the production of estrogen and progesterone. As you may know, these female hormones are the driving factors for a normal, 28 day menstrual cycle.


The suppression of the reproductive hormones doesn’t necessarily mean you will stop having periods altogether when you are stressed out. Often, women may experience spotting before their period, a lighter flow or a shorter period. It is always important to recognize changes in your menstrual cycle and discuss them with your physician. While one or two months of an abnormal period may not be cause for concern, if it is a consistent issue, your physician will need to investigate further.


While you may not mind having less of a period due to stress, it is important to know that if your reproductive function is compromised from stress levels, than there are likely other areas of your body suffering too. Talk to you doctor about ways you can lower your stress. Mediation, exercise, proper diet and adequate sleep are great solutions for naturally lowering stress. If you find that your stress is linked to high levels of anxiety, you may want to discuss your concerns with a medical professional.


At North Pointe OB/GYN & Associates, we want to know if you experience abnormal bleeding or sudden changes in your menstrual cycle. Our physicians are knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to finding the root cause of your period irregularities. For some women struggling to conceive, lowering stress levels is what helps them finally get pregnant.

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