So here’s the situation: you’ve totally got a handle on the period tracker and you’re unstoppable. You know how to predict when your period is coming, how long to expect it to last, when to sneak a Click ®Tampon into your bag and when you’re safe to leave it at home. You’re an expert level period planner. Congratulations! We’re impressed. Then one day it doesn’t show up on time and you have serious questions. We’re here to help!
If you’ve covered all the usual suspects i.e. pregnancy, starting or stopping birth control, significant weight gain or loss, it might be time to consider the stress in your life. Yes, we know, you’re maintaining a perfect grade point average, captaining your favourite team and making time to see your friends on the weekend and if we may say so, you look flawless doing it. Sometimes, though, even when things look great from the outside they don’t feel quite as good inside. Maybe it’s school or your job, your relationship, your home or quite honestly a global pandemic that’s stressing you out. Whatever it is, it’s important to know that stress can show up in physical symptoms including in your period and that stress can be managed.
Your menstrual cycle is ruled by hormones, little chemical messengers which tell your body when to ovulate, when to line your uterus to prepare for pregnancy and when to shed that lining during menstruation. As it turns out, stress also has hormones to spread messages. When the stress hormone, cortisol, rises significantly, it can interact with fertility hormones estrogen and progesterone, causing disruptions to your cycle1 .
Yes! We didn’t want to create any suspense there. Stress can definitely cause spotting, which, unfortunately can also be stressful. We get it. Spotting is when you notice small amounts of blood in between periods, maybe when you wipe after using the washroom. It’s not enough to be considered a full period, but just enough to be confusing. Tip: try a liner! A Barely There® or LightDays® Plus liner will help protect you from unwanted leaks, so no need to stress about in that regard. It’s a win win! If you’re experiencing frequent or persistent spotting, consider consulting your doctor.
Another resounding yes! Oddly enough, this is your body protecting you. When you’re under a ton of pressure, your body doesn’t necessarily clue in that it’s your exams on top of finding the perfect dress for prom that’s causing the way you feel and you would super appreciate that your cycle remain reliable. What it recognizes is that now is not the time for you to bring a baby into the world. While you might completely agree with that assessment and be taking all relevant precautions, your body works a little differently.
You’ve probably heard of ‘fight or flight,’ which is your current mode regardless of the reason you’re there. So when those hormones we mentioned, estrogen and progesterone, get a message from their friend cortisol saying “definitely not a good time” that can cause your body not to ovulate on time that month, which in turn means a delayed period.1
Definitions are important here: you’ve officially skipped a period when it’s been 6 weeks since you bled. Up until the 6-week mark your period is late and as we’ve discussed; stress is more than capable of causing that sort of delay 2. If it’s been more than 6 weeks, talk to your doctor about what else could be going on, or about managing your stress if that’s the cause.
It’s true, if your cortisol levels are high enough or if your body is not tolerating your stress well, it might decide to skip ovulation entirely for that month leading to your period going MIA.3 Again, it’s worth discussing with your doctor if this is the case.
It is definitely possible to get your period early because of stress4 , although it’s more likely that you will get it late or skip it entirely.
All right so you’ve made it this far and you know all the ways stress is messing with your cycle. Now, what do you do about it? We want to help you here too and we have a few suggestions.
Some other ideas are meditation, mindfulness, yoga and laughter! Most of all, you need time to decompress from your hectic schedule, tune into your own intuition and figure out what works for you. Maybe it’s a long bath, spending time in nature, a TV show or calling a friend. You know your own body best so be your own expert here and do what feels right.
This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.
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