It is not always possible or easy to eliminate stress from our lives. Whether it is a job loss, sick family member or nationwide pandemic, sustained stress levels can take a toll on our minds and bodies. Excessive worrying can negatively impact your heart, breathing rate and digestive system. For females, however, stress can also influence the reproductive system.
The Role of Stress in Amenorrhea
If you’ve been under a significant amount of stress, you may find that your periods get irregular or even stop. Secondary amenorrhea (missed period) is commonly caused by high stress levels. The exact relationship between stress and periods is not yet clear. However, we know that stress can suppress the function of the hypothalamus, which sends a chain reaction to impact the pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands and ovaries. These are all parts of the body that control hormones!
When the function of the ovaries is compromised or suppressed, it can lead to changes in estrogen production, ovulation and menstrual flow. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for building the uterine lining each month to prepare for pregnancy. Therefore, when estrogen isn’t being produced properly, it can affect your period (amount and frequency) and even limit your ability to conceive.
The Importance of Telling Your Physician
Keep in mind that not all missed periods are due to stress. Amenorrhea, infertility and irregular periods have other causes too, including cysts, tumors, hormone deficiencies and many other conditions. At North Pointe OB/GYN, we will discuss your health history and perform a variety of tests to determine if stress could be a likely culprit to your menstrual cycle abnormalities.
The good news is that many women can restore healthy hormone production and menstrual cycle regularity by lowering their stress levels. It is important to find ways to cope with anxiety, worry and stress when life gets hectic. This may include exercise, counseling, meditation and other methods. Please do not hesitate to discuss feelings such as stress and anxiety with our physicians, as we recognize the strong link between a woman’s mental health and her physical health.