Can Stress Actually Delay Your Period?
Periods are often a source of mystery and confusion. While we can often predict when our period will arrive, it doesn’t always come down to an exact science.
Stress is one factor that can play a role in delaying your period, so let's take a look at why this might be the case.
How Can Stress Affect Your Period?
When you experience high levels of stress, your body releases your fight-or-flight hormones (think: cortisol and adrenaline), which can affect the reproductive system. As a result of these stress hormones, your cycle may become irregular or even absent for some time. Among medical professionals, this is often called amenorrhea.
This is because stress can trigger changes in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for controlling many of the hormones and processes related to reproduction and women’s health.
It can also alter other hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, which play an important role in ovulation and menstruation. An imbalance in any one of these hormones can contribute to classic symptoms of PMS, as well as weight gain (or weight loss) and poor mental health.
Stress-induced hormone imbalances can cause an array of side effects, including:
- Delayed or missed periods
- Heavier or lighter bleeding than normal
- Cramps before or during your period
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods
These symptoms may be caused by anything from physical exhaustion to emotional distress; therefore, it's important to identify what type of stress you're experiencing and, if necessary, address it with lifestyle changes or professional help.
What Else Can Affect the Menstrual Cycle?
Although stress is a major culprit behind late periods, it's not the only one. Other factors that may affect your menstruation cycle include the following.
Poor Sleep Schedule
Not getting enough restful sleep can disrupt hormone levels, causing your period to arrive late or even become irregular. To guarantee your body gets the rest it needs, aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Changes in Diet and Exercise
Making dramatic changes to your diet or exercise routine can cause your period to be late. This is because food and exercise play a role in the production of hormones that help regulate the menstrual cycle. It's important to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs, as well as maintaining balanced levels of activity.
Hormonal birth control is often used to regulate the menstrual cycle. However, if you've recently changed or stopped using it, this can cause your period to be late or irregular. Make sure you consult with a doctor before starting or stopping any form of birth control.
Common forms of hormonal contraception include:
- Birth control pills
- Hormonal IUDs
- Hormonal arm implants
- Vaginal rings
Some medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid problems, can affect the menstrual cycle and cause your period to be late or irregular. If you're concerned, talk to your doctor about any medical conditions that could affect your cycle.
As women age, their periods can become irregular or even stop altogether. So if you're nearing menopause or perimenopause, don't panic — it could just be part of the process.
Pregnancy is another common reason that a woman’s period might be late. If it’s been over 30 days since your last menstrual period or your period is late, you may want to consider taking a pregnancy test.
Along the same lines, breastfeeding can also delay your period. Women who breastfeed may not see their period return for months after giving birth.
How Can You Support Your Period?
Whether due to stress or something else, if your period isn't flowing as it should, there are things you can do to help get it back on track.
1. Make Time To Relax
It's important to make time for yourself to relax, unwind, and de-stress. Make sure you are getting enough rest each night and find activities that help to reduce your stress levels, like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
2. Fill Up on Whole Foods
Eating a nutrient-dense diet just might be what you need to help regulate your hormones and get your period back on track. Focus on eating healthy whole foods that are full of vitamins and minerals.
These can include:
- Lean proteins
- Whole grains
3. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is essential for overall health and well-being, but it can also help to regulate your menstrual cycle. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Experts recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly is a great way to keep your body and hormones in balance. You don't have to go all-out at the gym; just 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can make a big difference.
5. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can both have negative effects on hormone levels, so it may be a good idea to cut back or even eliminate these from your diet. Try swapping out coffee for herbal tea and opting for water instead of alcohol when you go out.
6. Avoid Crash Dieting
Crash diets with extremely low calorie and nutrient levels may have a negative effect on hormone levels, which can disrupt your period. Instead of crash dieting, opt for long-term sustainable eating habits that are focused on nourishing your body.
7. Get Enough Vitamins and Minerals
Ensuring that you get enough vitamins and minerals is essential for hormone balance.
These should include:
- Vitamin B6
You can find these in foods such as dark leafy vegetables, nuts, dairy products, and fish, but if your diet is lacking, you could always opt for a multivitamin like Daily Love®.
8. Consider Probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria that can help to bring balance to your body — including your period. Natural sources like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all great options. You can also find probiotics in capsule form, which can be easier if you're not particularly fond of probiotic-rich foods.
Not sure where to find a good probiotic? Check out Good Girl Probiotics®.
Pro Tip: Give your probiotic supplement a helping hand in supporting vagina health with our Vaginal Suppository Duo. This confidence-boosting pair of vaginal suppositories keeps yeast and bacteria in check to leave you feeling your best.
9. See a Professional
If all else fails, it's a good idea to see a professional. A doctor can help you to identify any underlying issues that may be causing your period to be delayed. They can also provide treatment options and advice tailored to your individual needs.
The Bottom Line
So, can stress actually delay your period?
The short answer is yes. In fact, stress can have a major impact on the menstrual cycle, leading to not only period delays but irregularities, too. Fortunately, stress reduction techniques and lifestyle changes can help to manage stress levels and keep your period regular.
That said, if you experience significant or persistent changes in your menstrual cycle, it's important to see a gynecologist or your healthcare provider for further evaluation. While a late period isn't a major cause for concern, it can be a sign of an underlying condition.
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