So far the 2020’s haven’t exactly lived up to expectation… A pandemic, divisive politics, lockdowns, the rising cost of living, fires, floods, and now a war. It’s enough to slick a sweat on anyone’s palms and get those stress hormones soaring.
Whether our stress is mental, physical, financial, emotional or situational it impacts our health in a range of different ways, and our periods and reproductive health are no exception.
So what can stress do to your cycle and how can you support yourself?
1. Shorter Cycles
A shorter-than-normal cycle can often be traced to low levels of a key sex hormone: progesterone. Both stress hormones such as cortisol and progesterone are made from the same stuff, so when our bodies are making lots of stress hormones this can come at the detriment of progesterone production.
Don’t worry if this happens though, it’s just a gentle nudge from your body that it would like some hormonal TLC – keep reading for some tips.
2. A Longer Cycle
As stress can shorten your monthly cycle, so too it can stretch it out a little longer.
This may be caused by having an anovulatory cycle; in other words, a cycle where you don’t ovulate. Skipping ovulation can get our cycles out of rhythm, thus making them longer.
Results from over 2500 women who completed the Eve Hormone Test highlighted that stress and ovulation don’t mix well. Test results have shown that stress is the number one cause of hormonal issues. When we’re highly stressed we are less likely to ovulate, and ovulation is key for regular, balanced cycles.
3. Missing Periods
If your period doesn’t come at all, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a baby on the way (although it’s always best to check!)
Stress can cause your period to ‘skip’ a month, as your brain sends your ovaries a message to hold tight and sit this one out. It’s got bigger fish to fry.
When the ovaries hit pause, both oestrogen and progesterone remain at low levels, and neither ovulation nor menstruation take place.
While you may miss your monthly visitor and the release that can come with it, the odd skipped period, although disconcerting at the time, isn’t necessarily something to worry about long term.
If your period disappears for 2-3 months or more, we’d recommend exploring why this might be the case.
4. An Increase in PMS Symptoms
Shorter or longer cycles, and missed periods all relate to your body producing less progesterone than it usually would in a healthy, less-stressed, ovulatory cycle.
Lower levels of progesterone is a common cause of PMS; and is the most common hormone imbalance we see at Eve, with over almost 60 per cent of women experiencing it.
If you notice more PMS symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, cramps, hormonal acne and fatigue after a stressful stretch of time, you may be dealing with low levels of progesterone.
What can you do about it?
Manage stress where you can
Easier said than done, we know. But incorporating a few simple techniques into your day can make a real difference to your ability to cope well with stress. Some ideas to test drive:
- Practice gratitude in the morning, thinking of 3-5 things you are grateful for
- Try out a free meditation app – we love Insight Timer
- Limit exposure to current events and media to once a day, and never within an hour of bed time
Up your essential nutrients
While you may feel as though everything that’s happening is out of your control, there’s something that is – and always will be – in your control: how you choose to nourish and nurture yourself and your body.
Help your body ‘adapt’ with herbs & adaptogens
Vitex is the women’s health herb to support ovulation and progesterone production.
Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha & Rhodiola Rosea are also incredibly beneficial in ‘adapting’ your body’s response to stress and supporting both mental and physical resilience to all forms of stress. Check out Eve supplements Period Pal and Morning Person for a daily dose of adaptogens.
When it comes to your health, hormones and happiness, don’t underestimate the power of simple practices like the above to support yourself. Practice mindfulness and stress reduction. Treat yourself to nourishing food. Be gentle with yourself. You’ve got this.