Why Does Stress Delay Your Period? Stress Cause For Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is a complex process that involves a delicate balance of hormones. However, stress can disrupt this balance, causing a delay in the onset of menstruation. Understanding the relationship between stress and the menstrual cycle is crucial for women to manage their menstrual health effectively. Stress is a natural response of the body to factors that make you lose your balance. In the case of women, this agent can trigger reactions in the body such as delaying the menstrual cycle. Next, we explain why.
What is stress?
The term “stress” comes from a Latin word that means “tension“. The study of this phenomenon motivated a French physiologist, named Claude Bernard, to carry out studies related to changes in the person in the face of external factors. Both Bernard and other scientists understood that when a person is faced with aggressive stimuli, an adaptation mechanism is activated.
At present, it is known that these changes involve the activation of a set of behavioral and physiological reactions. In other words, they activate the response of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Precisely, these same mechanisms are directly related to the female cycle. But, what does each of these systems do and how do they intervene in the delay of the menstrual cycle?
Understanding Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is a monthly process that prepares the female body for pregnancy. The cycle begins on the first day of menstruation, and an average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days. The menstrual cycle involves the release of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, that regulate ovulation and menstruation.
The sympathetic nervous system functions as a mediator in the hormonal stress response. This process is carried out through interconnected neurons, both in the peripheral nervous system and in the central nervous system. The effects of stress on this system are excessive sweating in different parts of the body, the increased frequency of the beating heart, dilated pupils, and bronchi. But more importantly, stress stimulates the adrenal glands.
On the other hand, the adrenal glands can produce excessive or insufficient amounts of hormones in case of suffering a disorder. Women need to be aware of the fact that they suffer from a dangerous level of stress, that is, one that interferes with the possibility of living normally for a long time. It is very important because the chances of suffering from hormone production disorders are high.
In fact, leading a calm life is a key factor in a regular menstrual cycle.
Corticotropic axis, hormones, and stress
Also known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or HPA axis, it is the set of complex interactions between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal or adrenal gland. The axis is part of the neuroendocrine system that regulates stress and different processes. Among them, the control of reproductive function.
Within this complex communication network, relevant hormones are produced in the female cycle, such as estrogens, progesterone, and prolactin. Stress is capable of altering the function of the hypothalamus and, specifically, of the area of the brain that controls female sex hormones. Due to this, ovulation and even menstruation can be stopped in these times of stress for women.
Cortisol and Menstrual Cycle
Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol can influence estrogen and progesterone levels, usually causing menstruation to occur later.
The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a complex system that regulates the body’s response to stress. The HPA axis controls the release of cortisol and other stress hormones. Stress can disrupt the HPA axis, leading to a delay in the onset of menstruation.
Generally, when these hectic periods pass, the body regulates itself again and the menstrual cycle also returns to its normality, acquiring its constancy and regularity again.
Types of Stress
Stress can be classified into two categories: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is a quick reaction to a tense situation. Acute stress may lead to a temporary delay in menstruation onset, which usually clears up once the stressors are eliminated.
Chronic stress is a long-term response to stress. Chronic stress can cause persistent changes in the levels of stress hormones, leading to a delay in the onset of menstruation.
How Does Stress Delay Your Period?
Stress can delay the onset of menstruation through two primary mechanisms: anovulation and changes in hormones.
Anovulation is a condition where the ovary does not release an egg during a menstrual cycle. Stress can disrupt the hormonal balance required for ovulation, causing anovulation and delaying the onset of menstruation.
Changes in Hormones
Stress can affect the levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are essential for the menstrual cycle. A decrease in the levels of these hormones can cause a delay in the onset of menstruation.
Coping with Stress
Coping with stress is essential to manage menstrual health effectively. Some relaxation techniques that can help cope with stress include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep, can also help reduce stress levels.
How Does Stress Affect Your Period? Beginning of Irregular Period
Stress can cause a variety of physical and emotional problems, including issues with your menstrual cycle. Stress levels can play a significant role in the timing and regularity of your period.
High levels of stress can cause a late or missed period, as well as hormonal imbalances that can affect the length and flow of your menstrual cycle. In some cases, stress can also affect how well certain birth control methods work.
Additionally, stress can also affect women who are entering menopause, causing irregular periods before they stop completely. If you are experiencing irregular periods due to stress, it’s important to take steps to manage your stress levels, such as exercise or relaxation techniques.
If your period is consistently late or you miss several cycles, it’s also important to see a healthcare provider to rule out pregnancy or other underlying medical conditions.
What Can You Do To Combat Stress Cause?
The American Psychological Association(APA, acronym in English) makes some recommendations in this regard, among which we can mention:
1. Identify the cause
There are different sources of stress. Generally, they have to do with family life, relationships, work or the busyness of daily life. Sometimes it is difficult to break free from such situations; however, activities such as exercise, yoga, and some relaxation techniques can be very helpful. If the problems are very complex, do not hesitate to request psychological help, as the specialist will help you develop strategies that allow you to live more calmly.
2. Analyze the agenda
Sometimes we believe that we can meet a large number of different kinds of commitments. However, a fast pace of life favors the development of stress. Therefore, it is better to ponder the priorities and discard those activities that are not essential.
3. Take a breath
Ten minutes of quiet can help you disconnect from the problems and demands of daily life. Walking, dancing, listening to music, meditating, and turning off the phone are simple actions that will help you return to a state of relaxation, which will take you away from stress.
When to Seek Medical Help?
If stress is causing a persistent delay in the onset of menstruation or if you experience other menstrual irregularities, such as heavy bleeding, days late, or painful periods, it is essential to seek medical help. Additionally, you can take a pregnancy test, to rule out one of the most common reasons that can affect your menstrual cycle.
Your doctor can help identify the underlying cause of your menstrual irregularities and suggest appropriate treatments.
As mentioned before, stress is a natural response of the body to certain situations in life. However, it is important to learn how to handle it effectively. Doing so will allow us to improve our health in every way. If you have problems regarding the regularity of your menstrual cycle, it is advisable that you visit a specialist or endocrinologist.
In this way, the true cause of the late period can be identified and other risks related to oligomenorrhea and amenorrhea can be ruled out.