Many women experience irregular periods as they approach menopause. However, high stress levels from professional responsibilities, family obligations, or other aspects of daily life can also disrupt hormone levels and cause irregular periods.
How Stress Affects Menstruation
While many factors can cause irregular periods, a stress-induced hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes. When a woman is under a lot of stress, the adrenal glands produce more of the hormone cortisol in response.
This excess cortisol influences the amount estrogen and progesterone that are produced, which in turn can cause a woman to miss her period. Other psychological issues, such as depression, can also cause irregular periods and painful menstruation. As menopause nears, many women experience skipped periods or menstruate less frequently, and eventually, cycles will stop completely.
How to Manage Stress and Irregular Periods
It is important to remember that many women have an irregular cycle or miss one period due to stress. However, if you have not had your period for more than three months, or your period has been irregular for this long, it is important to see a doctor. Irregular periods are symptoms of a wide range of medical conditions, some of the serious. A doctor will be able to perform the necessary medical tests and evaluate your specific set of symptoms in order to come up with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
However, if your menstrual irregularities are caused by stress, there are changes you can make to help you cope with the stress in your life and reduce its impact on your body and overall well-being.
Eat healthy. Eating a balanced diet can help decrease stress. It is recommended to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables per day, and make sure you are getting enough dietary fiber. It is not necessary to go on a strict “diet” but eating healthy is not only good for you, but it can make you feel better too.
Exercise. Any exercise can help lower stress levels, and it depends on what your personal preferences are when it comes to picking a workout that fits you. Many people enjoy tennis lessons, going running, yoga, and kickboxing.
Regular sleep patterns. Getting a good night's sleep - 7 to 8 hours per night - is an essential step in lowering stress, banishing fatigue, and managing irregular periods.
Meditation. This relaxation method allows many women to take their mind off of daily life and reduce their stress. It can be guided or done alone.
Eliminating bad habits. While there is a myth that cigarettes are relaxing, they actually make the smoker more nervous. Likewise, alcohol and caffeine can also trigger anxiety and stress. Therefore, it is important to moderate or quit the consumption of these substances.
Irregular periods can be caused both by menopause and stress. It's important that you have outlets to handle the stress in your life, so that stress does not negatively impact your hormone levels and menstrual cycle. Click here for more about treatments for irregular periods.
- Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15(1), 18-22. http://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.77573
- Franklin, D. (2010, May 3). Irregular Period? It Could Be More Than Just Stress. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126419827