Can Stress Delay Your Menstrual Cycle?
You’re running late to a meeting that you were up all night preparing for and spent the last week researching while juggling the rest of your busy schedule and maintaining your home. You know that you’re supposed to start your period soon, so that must be why everything feels so overwhelming, right?
The last thing you need is to go to the bathroom to find your period hasn’t even arrived. What might feel like momentary relief can lead to deep-set panic as your delayed period ends up being straight-up late.
While you should always keep your doctor up to date on any changes in your cycle, it is essential to take a breath and reflect. The busy schedule, hectic workplace, and stress of everyday life could be bogging you down in more ways than you’re aware. Stress can do a lot to our bodies, like lead to acne, weight loss or gain, and even upset pH balance. But can stress actually delay your period?
What Stress Does To The Body
Stress hormones can make the body feel like it is in a dangerous situation. The fight or flight response kicks in, and many symptoms manifest at the first sign of stress. These immediate onset symptoms include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Shallow or heavy breathing
- Muscle tension
- Stomach upset
Much like with prey animals, stress will cause a chemical reaction that sets our bodies into fight or flight. Unfortunately, we often cannot choose between fight or flight and instead ignore the stress and go on with our day.
This reaction causes problems too. A build-up of stress hormones will wreak havoc on the body by disrupting natural functions. While it may not be immediate, it can cause moderate to severe health problems that will wear away at your system over time. This is why you’ve likely heard the phrase “stress is toxic,” because it can literally poison the body.
If your body is working with the danger signal firing day after day, you’re going to start to notice some issues. It may begin with disrupted sleep or blemishes when your skin is usually clear, but these things can evolve and get worse. You may notice effects like:
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent heartburn
- An increase in anxiety or depression episodes
- Weakened immune response
- Heightened blood pressure
- Low libido
- Disrupted digestion
- Disrupted fertility
- Disrupted menstrual cycles
Because our nervous system works in tandem with the rest of our body, every other system is affected when the body is under stress. This means the endocrine, digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, muscular, and reproductive systems are all subject to stress-related problems and disruptions. So many of us live in a constant state of stress and don’t realize the toll it takes on our bodies.
How Stress Affects The Immune System
Stress hormones can positively affect the immune system in short bursts, but your immune system is in trouble when it comes to the long-term impact. Stress hormones begin to chip away at your immunity over time, weakening it until your body’s response to fight back against illness is delayed.
If you are prone to candida overgrowth, a weakened immune system may mean that you start having outbreaks of yeast infections. This can be under the arms, breasts, and, most commonly, the vagina. Candida overgrowth can be incredibly painful, and the stress of this condition can further the problem. Your pH balance is delicate, and stress can upset it entirely.
How Stress Affects The Menstrual Cycle
Just like it weakens your immune system, your cycle is prone to upsets related to stress hormones. Stress can actively inhibit the menstrual cycle and cause a multitude of issues. These issues could be anything like:
- Heavier or lighter periods
- Painful periods
- Delayed periods
Stress hormones imbalance other hormones, which can cause periods to be late, early, or skip a month altogether. This happens because your brain controls your period. It sends signals to your body, directing it when to release hormones and begin your cycle. Unfortunately, with stress, your body produces cortisol, which causes delays, irregularity, and lightness or heaviness of your period.
Stress has also proven to cause more painful periods. It can increase your clotting and cause painful cramping due to the irregularity in your hormones. Passing clots, in general, can be somewhat painful, and the rise in cortisol levels can affect the clotting of your menstrual blood.
If stress is causing delayed or missed periods often enough to be concerning, chat with a doctor through Orchyd MD™ inside the Orchyd app or consult with your primary care physician.
How Stress Affects Your Reproductive System
As stress hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle, they can also cause problems with fertility. Not only can stress reduce libido, but it can also affect ovulation. With cortisol levels affecting the release of estrogen and progesterone, your body can’t get the signal to release an egg. If you’re already struggling with fertility, stress is only going to make it worse.
Stress can also reduce or increase vaginal discharge. In addition to reduced libido, this can make sex uncomfortable if you get too dry. As we’ve talked about, your immune system goes hand in hand with your reproductive system, and you can develop a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis if your pH becomes imbalanced.
How Can You Fix It?
While it can feel impossible to improve your stress when you’re already at your breaking point, there are small things you can do to improve your stress levels.
Get Better Sleep
Easier said than done, right? But studies show that having a consistent bedtime routine can help reduce stress levels significantly. Here are some recommendations for what to do for less stressful sleep:
- Aromatherapy: Lavender, rose, and chamomile all have naturally calming properties and will help relax you so you can sleep more peacefully.
- Melatonin: Whether you’re getting it from a vitamin or a sleepytime tea blend, adding a little extra melatonin might help you sleep better. Though we make it naturally to help us sleep, it can be more challenging for some people, so supplementing makes sleep easier and less of a hassle.
- Shutting Off Electronics: Blue light and constant scrolling keep your brain active when settling down for bed. The best thing to do for better sleep is to shut your electronics off 30 to 45 minutes before bed so you can focus on getting yourself ready without distractions.
Take Time For You
This is also easier said than done, but even with a constantly packed schedule, you need to be able to carve out time for relaxation and recovery. This could mean taking a half-hour a day to enjoy a beverage of your choice and read a magazine. It could mean going for a jog or doing yoga to center yourself while boosting endorphins.
Another great way to regulate your hormones and drive down stress levels is to have a little bit of “me” time. Masturbation or having sex are great ways to release endorphins and reduce stress. The endorphins released from an orgasm are also known to help with period cramps, regulate sleep, and lower cortisol levels. So, find your favorite toy or grab your partner for some fun time between the sheets because it really is good for your health!
On the Orchyd Marketplace, there are so many products that can help you manage stress. Below are some customer favorites.
This bundle comes with the De-Stress + Sleep Gummies, so you are covered day and night. These gummies are packed with destressing and calming ingredients and star Safr'Inside™, ASYSTEM’s award-winning patented extract of Persian saffron that is proven to naturally support emotional health, improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety.
These NOON drops contain bacopa monnieri, lion’s mane mushroom, ginkgo biloba leaf, and CBD isolate. Together, these ingredients create balance and enhance a productive, chill state.
The Good Patch is the easiest way to get what you need to relax. The relax patch is packed with 14 ingredients in a controlled dose, easily absorbed through the skin.
Xula Calm + Clarity (Softgels)
Xula combines MCT oil, hemp, passionflower, damiana, rose, blue vervain, and mugwort to give you inner peace and focus. They also offer this recipe in dropper form. So you can choose how best to incorporate it into your routine.
Periods can be stressful enough without external stress and anxiety adding to the problem. So don’t sweat the small stuff, and put your health first. Your body and cycle will thank you for taking time to destress and prioritize yourself.