Can Stress Delay Your Period?
Your menstruation should begin between 21 and 35 days after your last period, depending on your regular cycle, if you don't have any known medical conditions that might alter it. Regular intervals can change. If your typical cycle lasts 28 days and you are on day 29 without your period, your interval is deemed late.
Similar to the above, if your typical cycle lasts 32 days and you are still waiting for your period on day 33, it is late for you. Though technically late, neither of these two possibilities justifies immediate alarm. Menstrual cycle variations can happen for a number of causes.
After six weeks without menstruation, a late period is considered a missed period. Your period might be delayed by a variety of factors, from simple lifestyle adjustments and stress to long-term medical concerns. Here, we're going to answer your question, “Can stress delay your period?”
Does Stress Actually Cause a Delayed Period?
It's typical to experience manageable levels of stress in daily life. But too much stress, whether it's emotional or physical, can be bad for your health. Cortisol, also known as "the stress hormone," increases as a result of stress.
The process goes like this. Intense physical, emotional, or dietary stress sets off a series of events in your body. It begins with alterations in brain activity and brain endocrine gland activity, and travels through the suprarenal gland, where stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline are produced into the circulation, and disturbs the hormonal balance of the reproductive organs.
How Stress Leads to Missed Periods
Numerous changes in the body can be induced by stress. Our physical and emotional well-being are both impacted by it. So, if you’re thinking, “can stress delay your period?”, the answer is yes. The hormonal pathways involved in the various menstrual cycle phases might be affected by the stress hormone cortisol. After a brief discussion of the regular hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, we'll talk about how and why stress might alter these changes.
The Menstrual Cycle's Hormonal Changes
The body's regular rise and fall in the concentrations of certain hormones regulate the menstrual cycle. Additionally, stress has a huge effect on our hormone levels. So let's first go over the hormonal changes that take place during the menstrual cycle before discussing how stress affects menstruation.
The main hormonal changes consist of:
An increase in the hormone known as follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) directs the ovaries to begin developing eggs for ovulation.
An increase in the hormone luteinizing hormone (LH) instructs the ovary to deliver a mature egg.
An increase in oestrogen instructs the uterus to create its lining in the event that the eggs successfully fertilise.
An increase in progesterone instructs the uterus to keep its lining in place in the case of an egg implant.
A natural decline in oestrogen and progesterone levels occurs at the conclusion of the cycle when an egg is not fertilised, allowing for menstruation and the cycle to restart.
A link between the brain and ovaries governs each of these alterations. The hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis is what causes this. The brain regions that cause the release of FSH and LH are the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. And it is through these hormones that the brain communicates with the ovaries. The subsequent production of oestrogen and progesterone by the ovaries provides crucial feedback to the brain.
However, there is also a connection between the brain and the adrenal glands. These are tiny cortisol-producing glands that are situated close to the kidneys. And when we are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released. Cortisol can break the feedback loop between the brain and the ovaries when it enters the discussion.
What Impact Does Stress Have on the Hormones Responsible for the Menstrual Cycle?
The adrenal glands release cortisol when we are in a stressful scenario. Because cortisol primes our systems for a "fight-or-flight" response, this adrenal response has played a crucial role in our evolution. Our bodies are put into "survival mode" by cortisol in a variety of ways. For instance, it speeds up our respiration and pulse rate. The blood is also directed towards our muscles.
The hypothalamus is also impacted by cortisol, which instructs it to stop making the chemicals that start the menstrual cycle. In the course of our evolutionary history, this made sense since it prevented women from becoming pregnant when their survival was in danger. However, our bodies cannot distinguish between stress caused by a real threat to our lives (such as a hungry tiger in front of us) and stress caused by a difficult time in our day.
The majority of us deal with psychological stress on a daily basis in some capacity. And our bodies weren't built to handle this constant stress. Therefore, the constant release of cortisol by the adrenal glands may have some unwanted effects on our health.
What Kinds of Menstruation Changes Are Stress-Related?
A person's period duration and the symptoms they feel during their menstrual cycle may be impacted by high levels of stress. High levels of stress are linked to:
Premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, nausea, breast tenderness, and weight fluctuations are present.
Menstrual periods can be irregular, having longer or shorter cycles than usual.
Stress at a high enough level may even completely halt menstruation and ovulation. Cortisol instructs the hypothalamus to suspend the menstrual cycle, resulting in functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. This is also what occurs when a woman stops her periods as a result of excessive exercise or starvation. In times when the body might not be ready to support a healthy pregnancy, our bodies are attempting to protect us in this way.
Effective Stress Management Techniques
Everybody deals with stress to some extent, and eliminating it entirely isn't always feasible or realistic. However, there are actions you can take to alter how it impacts you. You can be better prepared for stressful situations by consciously relaxing and focusing on yourself. Some good tactics are to:
Pay attention to your feelings and prioritise your mental health.
Spend some alone time doing the things that bring you joy and fulfilment.
Spend some time interacting with others and creating a network of social support.
Get adequate sleep, eat well, and frequently exercise to take care of yourself.
Use meditation and mindfulness approaches.
If you feel overwhelmed or when the tension in your life feels unbearable, seek counselling.
Cortisol levels can be reduced with the aid of stress management practices, which have observable and advantageous consequences on our mental and physical health.
The reproductive system is one of several systems of the body that stress can affect. Stress causes cortisol levels to rise, which alters the hormone pathways that control the menstrual cycle between the brain and ovaries. The great news is that there are things one can do to lessen how bad stress is for their body, their emotions, and their life in general.
To learn more about women's health, read through our women's health hub here.
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