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’s 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 or stressed.
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 unwind 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 jump to conclusions 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 cycles , but why does stress affect your period in this way?
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that goes to sleep during times of stress. However the hypothalamus is also responsible for controlling your hormone levels as it triggers the ovaries to produce oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen and progesterone are the hormones responsible for your period, so when the hypothalamus goes to sleep during times of stress, it has the potential to completely throw off your cycle .
While a delayed or irregular period may seem scary or unusual, it’s nothing you need to worry about as it doesn’t mean that your period has gone forever- it will come back! The best thing you can do is relax and give your body the time it needs to reset and adjust during particularly stressful times – after all, your body is amazing at looking after itself.
Can stress cause spotting?
Yes, just as stress can delay your period, it 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. In the meantime, if you are experiencing spotting it may be easier to deal with it if you keep some of our trusty liners at hand, so that you can always be prepared for the unexpected. Also if you’re concerned at all, then you can always contact your doctor for some expert advice.
Can stress make my PMS worse?
Annoyingly, stress can intensify PMS symptoms. According to a study , women who reported feeling stressed at the beginning of their cycle were up to four times as likely to experience severe PMS symptoms than those who did not feel stressed. It’s hardly ideal as we know how hard PMS symptoms can be sometimes, but try not to concern yourself too much and instead prioritise on ways to keep yourself calm and relaxed. For some top tips on this, check out our article on PMS relief.
How to manage your stress on your period
Whilst avoiding stress altogether is near impossible, it’s essential to put some time aside to help manage it properly – particularly around the time of your period!
Although it might be the last thing on your mind, getting into the routine of exercising regularly is always beneficial. This is because exercise is proven to be a significant stress reliever, while also helping to boost your mood and alleviate period pain. And don’t worry, this exercise doesn’t have to be too strenuous – it could include a brisk walk with a friend, a light stretch when you wake up in the morning 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 remember to allow yourself some extra time to relax and wind down. This could include some meditation before bed, listening to music, turning off your phone, having a bath or simply taking some extra time out of your day to generally switch off.
While stress affecting your period is usually minor and is often nothing to be too alarmed about, never be afraid to talk to your doctor if there’s something you feel particularly worried about it. After all, who knows your body better than yourself?
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.
 Fenster, 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.