What Pandemic Stress Does to Your Menstrual Cycles
Stress can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle in several ways. The stress hormone cortisol can affect the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, which are reproductive hormones that influence the menstrual cycle. Stress-related factors, such as poor nutrition, weight gain, weight loss, and poor sleep, also can play a role.
A prolonged irregular menstrual cycle sometimes can be a sign of more worrying changes in the body, said Amy Wagner, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Suppose someone is in a chronically stressful situation. She said that higher cortisol levels could affect periods and increase the risk of inflammation, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, high blood pressure, or other chronic diseases.
In general, one or two abnormal cycles aren’t something to worry about, but she encourages patients to talk to their doctors and to continue tracking their periods to be sure no concerning patterns emerge. In addition to stress, she said that changes in one’s menstrual cycle could signal thyroid disease, hormonal changes, cancer, pregnancy, or an infection.