Chill Out! The Link Between Stress and Irregular Periods

For the past two years, I’ve been struggling every month with what seems like a plot from a horror movie- a menstruation cycle that seem to last almost three weeks at a time…

It is quite inconvenient and frustrating. It makes me incredibly tired and grouchy, I break out, and oh the bloat- oh god the bloat!

And going to the lady doctor helps, but not much. They checked me for nearly everything under the sun and have changed my birth control (which I originally went on to help with painful cramps and heavy flow) four times since then. And they tell me they have no idea why it’s like this, but they could up the amount of hormone I’m on and see if that would help. This for me, is not something that I would like to do right now. 

But recently, I’ve begun to notice a trend: I have my period, everythings great, I get stressed, I start spotting.

All this began around the same time as several large life events. I transferred to UNC Charlotte, was working a serving and retail job, commuting everyday, and dealing with some unhealthy relationships. 

Needless to say, this caused lots of stress.

Research seems to support this. According to Department of Health and Human Services: Women’s Health, there are many reasons that women may struggle with irregular periods. One of the reasons they state, can be from stress, normally resulting in high-levels of chronic stress. Now, what makes this incredibly interesting is the study from which the research is based on. In Japan, 264 female college students with a mean age of 19, participated in a study conducted in 2007. In this study, their stress was measured by The Inventory to Measure Psychological Stress, and they found a link between menstruation and higher psychological stress. 

There is also an incredible amount of scholarly research online, supporting the idea that stress is related to how frequently or intently women have their periods. In a thesis written by Sara Julia Gonzolez, published with the University of Texas, she specifically looks into how college stress affects the menstrual cycle. She writes, “Various types of chronic stress are related to premenstrual distress in college students. Psychological stress is a significant predictor of premenstrual distress and the experience of irregular menstrual cycles and of higher premenstrual severity…”

But there is hope! There are ways to help you manage it through self-care. 

A biggie, which I do begrudgingly every single time I put on my sneakers, is aerobic exercise. It helps lessen the punch of PMS through increasing “feel good” hormones in the brain and may help reduce cramping. 

Sleep is also imperative, as well as your diet. Make sure to eat diets rich in complex carbohydrates and calcium. And be sure to try to limit things such as caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, which can sometimes make symptoms worse. 

Something to always remember is that there is no shame in talking to your doctor, and making them aware of things going on in your life. They can help you figure out ways to manage your stress and might be able to help you with underlying conditions that can cause irregular periods. 

 

Sources:

Gonzalez, S. J. (2014). Premenstrual experiences: The simultaneous examination of the association of self-perceived stress, college-related stress, and sleep quality (Order No. 1563230). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1572101150). Retrieved from https://librarylink.uncc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.librarylink.uncc.edu/docview/1572101150?accountid=14605

Period problems? (2018, March 16). Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/period-problems#8.

Yamamoto, K., Okazaki, A., Sakamoto, Y., Funatsu, M. (2009). The relationship between premenstrual symptoms, menstrual pain, irregular menstrual cycles, and psychosocial stress among Japanese college students. Journal of Physiological Anthropology; 28(3): 129–136.