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How stress can affect your period

Stress and anxiety can impact every single aspect of your body – so it makes sense that being in fight or flight mode can trigger strange effects on your period. From irregular periods to skipping your monthly bleed all together, stress can make menstruation messy.  

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of how it actually affects your period, let’s go over exactly what stress is. 

What is stress? 

Stress is a natural evolutionary psychological and physical reaction to a change in someone’s environment. In our modern world, most people talk about stress in terms of chronic or negative forms of stress and anxiety, usually stemming from factors like overworking, being unhappy in relationships or the overwhelm of keeping up with life. While stress in an evolutionary sense can actually save our lives or be good for us (think about the way we would react if we came across a tiger while walking), chronic stress can seriously bring down a person’s short and long-term health.  

How does stress affect our reproductive systems? 

Activating a hormonal pathway in our bodies called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, stress also triggers the release of cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). When these hormones are released due to anxiety or stress, our normal levels of reproductive hormones are severely suppressed, which can lead to issues in menstruation.  

Can stress cause irregular periods? 

If you’ve been pulling your hair out over work for the last six months, or your relationship is making you stressed, it’s common to experience an irregular period. In any situation where you’ve been under a high level of stress for a long period of time, our fight or flight response is triggered. In this mode, our hormones can become affected and create issues for ovulation. This, in turn, affects your period.  

Been in fight or flight mode for too damn long? You might get late periods or skip several months of your cycle. If you’re experiencing irregular periods, it’s important you schedule an appointment with a trusted health professional. 

When could it be more than stress? 

Stress can have powerful effects on your period, but if you don’t bleed for more than a month or two, something peskier could be at play. Called amenorrhea, the absence of a period could indicate a serious health condition like a hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues or even a tumour on your pituitary gland.  

While the most serious of these health conditions are rare, it’s always a good idea to play it safe and keep an eye on the way you bleed. If your period has stopped and you’re not pregnant, reach out for help as soon as possible.