Does stress delay period: Can Stress Delay Your Period & Impact Your Cycle?
Can Stress Delay Your Period & Impact Your Cycle?
Medically reviewed on November 22, 2022 by Karen Janson, MS, MD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
- How does stress affect your period?
- Are my problems from stress?
- Check in on your cycle with Everlywell
- Related content
Feelings of stress, anticipation, or unease can impact the whole body. When a traffic jam or traumatic event triggers your body’s stress response, your brain will produce a stress hormone called cortisol. Long-term activation can lead to mood dysregulation, digestive problems, muscle tension, and memory impairment .
If you have female reproductive organs, chronic stress may also delay your menstrual period.
That said, missing your regular cycle doesn’t always mean something is wrong. However, regular disruption of your menstrual cycle can be linked to chronic stress that may suppress normal levels of reproductive hormones in your body .
How does stress affect your period?
Your regular menstrual cycle is highly impacted by the level of reproductive hormones in the body. Hormonal imbalance and changes affect a variety of menstrual functions, which trigger :
- Maturation and release of eggs in the ovaries
- Building and shedding of the uterus lining
- Preparation for egg implantation
That said, cortisol—the stress hormone—can impact various reproductive hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, LH, and FSH, which are connected to the brain through the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis . When cortisol is released by the brain, it can disrupt this feedback loop.
To understand how can stress delay your period, let’s first explore how your normal menstrual cycle functions without the interference of cortisol:
- Step one – Your regular menstrual cycle starts when your body’s hormones cause you to ovulate, stimulating the release of a mature egg from your ovary.
- Step two – The egg travels down your fallopian tube toward your uterus, which is preparing for the possible fertilization of the egg .
- Step three – If the egg isn’t fertilized, your hormone levels decrease, and your uterus sheds the tissue it built up. This shedding is often referred to as your period, or menstruation .
When you’re experiencing high levels of stress, the hormones that trigger these steps may become disrupted. As such, you may experience a delayed period. More specifically, cortisol has a strong effect on your body’s ability to make estrogen, which plays a role in the thickening of the uterus lining .
In addition to having an irregular period, low estrogen levels may also lead to :
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Weight gain
- Fatigue, irritability, and moodiness
- Dry skin
One study also found that emotional, nutritional, or physical stress can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which releases epinephrine and norepinephrine during times of stress. In effect, disruptions in the HPA axis are thought to be a primary cause of amenorrhea—the abnormal absence of menstruation for three months or more .
Those who experience amenorrhea are often treated with hormone therapy by a healthcare provider .
Are my problems from stress?
While stress may cause a delay in your menstrual period, other common reasons include weight fluctuations, excessive exercise, pregnancy, and menopause .
To determine whether or not your regular period’s absence is stress-related, reflect on your mental health. Oftentimes, feelings of stress are coupled with feelings of irritability, overwhelm, anxiety, and disinterest.
You should also consult with your healthcare provider to receive a personalized assessment of your health. Your healthcare provider may:
- Perform a physical exam
- Check your hormone levels
- Ask about your stress levels
- Run any additional lab work they need
Check in on your cycle with Everlywell
The balance of reproductive hormones in your body is delicate, and stress hormones like cortisol can often disrupt this balance and, subsequently, your menstrual cycle. That said, many factors may affect your regular period, including changes in weight and exercise.
To stay in tune and in the know, look to Everlywell.
At Everlywell, we’re building a world where everyone can access insightful at-home lab tests to monitor their body’s health. Our at-home Women’s Health lab tests are affordable and easy to use. Simply follow the instructions, mail in your at-home collection kit, and receive your physician-reviewed results in days.
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- Stress management stress relief. Mayo Clinic. Published April 8, 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
- What is ovulation? American Pregnancy Association. Published June 13, 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
- William Shaw, PhD; Susan Labott-Smith, PhD, ABPP; Matthew M. Burg, PhD; Camelia Hostinar, PhD; Nicholas Alen, BA; Miranda A. L. van Tilburg, PhD; Gary G. Berntson, PhD; Steven M. Tovian, PhD, ABPP, FAClinP, FAClinHP; and Malina Spirito, PsyD, MEd.Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association. URL
- Low estrogen: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
- Fourman LT, Fazeli PK. Neuroendocrine causes of amenorrhea–an update. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. Published March 2015. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
- Amenorrhea: Absence of periods. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
- Stopped or missed periods. NHS. Accessed November 4, 2022. URL
How Long Can Stress Delay Your Period?
03 February 2023
07 March 2019
Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc. , Lithuania
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The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, although it’s normal for a menstrual cycle to be anywhere from 21 to 35 days, and this can vary by a few days each cycle without being considered late.
A general rule of thumb is that a period is considered late if it is delayed by five days or more.
Anyone who gets a period will probably experience a late period at least once in their life. It may come as a surprise that stress is actually a very common cause for a late period. If a period is delayed due to stress, how late it is depends on many factors, including the amount of stress, coping abilities, and the person’s individual cycle.
If the stress is acute, your period might only be a few days late, but some people who experience severe chronic stress can go months without getting a period.
Can stress delay your period?
Having a manageable amount of stress in your life is normal. But excessive levels of stress, whether physical or mental, can be detrimental to your health. One of the effects of stress is a spike in cortisol, sometimes called “the stress hormone.”
This is how it happens. Extreme physical, emotional, or nutritional stress activates a chain reaction in your body. It starts from changes in brain activity and activity in the brain endocrine glands, passes through the suprarenal gland where stress hormones — cortisol and adrenaline — are released into the blood, and disrupts the hormonal balance of the reproductive organs.
What to do if stress delays your period
If you suspect that stress is the cause of your delayed period, there are several lifestyle changes you can make. Firstly, it is important to identify the possible causes of your stress and understand the level of stress you’re under.
Keeping a journal is one way to do this. Talking to a therapist is another. Meditation, yoga, and exercise are common methods that many people find helpful. In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be recommended.
A few ways to get your period back on track
Getting your period back on track might be possible by eliminating the unhealthy stressors in your life. If that’s not possible, learning and adopting new coping strategies might work.
If you have experienced delayed periods in the past, it can be quite helpful to track your moods, changes in diet, new medication, or big life events. This will help you better identify what some of your stressors are. The Flo app can help you with this.
Here are a few ways to reduce stress and get your period back on track:
Make time to relax
The best way to reduce stress is to relax. Meditation, exercise, journaling, coloring books, art, and knitting are all ways to relax. Some, all, or even none of these may work for you, but figuring out what you enjoy for relaxation will make it easier for you to develop and follow through with a plan for relaxing when you are stressed out.
Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
Both alcohol and caffeine can increase cortisol levels, so it’s recommended that you reduce your intake of both of these when dealing with major life changes, going through a rough patch, or nearing your menstrual cycle. Instead, you might try decaffeinated beverages or herbal teas that are known to have calming effects, such as chamomile or lavender.
Prioritize healthy sleep
Getting better sleep is often one of the best ways to overcome stress. Often, we focus on the quantity of sleep, but quality is also important. Most people need about 7–9 hours of sleep to really refresh themselves. Sticking to a sleep schedule and routine can help improve your quality of sleep.
Avoiding screens for a few hours before you go to bed, wearing a sleep mask, and using a white noise machine can all make falling asleep and staying asleep easier. This will allow the body to fall into a proper sleep rhythm which can lower the chance of insomnia.
How to prevent stress from delaying your period
The first step in preventing stress from delaying your period is to understand what’s causing your stress and how much stress you can manage. You may not always be able to avoid stress, but you can develop healthy ways to cope with it. Tracking your cycle and any changes you experience in your moods will make it easier to identify any issues that may arise so you can better understand why your period is late.
While stress (physical, emotional, or nutritional) is a common cause for a late period, it is just one of many potential reasons for a delay in menstruation. Pregnancy, hormonal birth control, and health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also make your period late.
Sometimes the stress of worrying about a potential unintended pregnancy can make your period late. Taking a pregnancy test to find out if you are pregnant can reduce this stress. If your period is late, and you’re experiencing symptoms like unwanted hair growth, headaches, weight gain, and difficulty sleeping, you may want to see a health care provider to rule out PCOS, which is a treatable condition.
Tracking your mood, life events, and symptoms in an app like Flo can help you gain perspective on your level of stress, and taking simple measures like exercising or making time for meditation can help you get your period back on track.
“Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.” UpToDate,
“Stopped or Missed Periods.” NHS Choices, NHS, Aug. 2019,
Robert L. Spencer, Ph.D., and Kent E. Hutchison, Ph.D. “Alcohol, Aging, and the Stress Response.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Vol. 23, No. 4, 1999,
“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Aug. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439.
Lovallo WR; Whitsett TL; al’Absi M; Sung BH; Vincent AS; Wilson MF; “Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels. ” Psychosomatic Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
History of updates
(03 February 2023)
Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc., Lithuania
(03 March 2019)
Delayed periods and stress: signs and causes
Can stress cause delayed periods and why?
The menstrual cycle is an important criterion for assessing the state of the female body. A delay in menstruation can signal the presence of pregnancy, hormonal changes in some cases caused by stress factors, diseases of the reproductive system, menopause, or even tumors. If there is a clear relationship with stress and after excluding other possible causes of the delay, a stress-related menstrual disorder is diagnosed.
Diagnosis of the disease causes difficulties and takes time, since it is not always possible to objectively assess the effect of stress on the body. Each person has their own threshold of sensitivity to stress, and for some women, even minor stress at first glance can affect the delay in menstruation.
The reason for the delay in menstruation can be stressful factors such as the loss of a loved one, dramatic changes in life, problems at work, intense physical or mental stress, trauma, busy schedules and lack of sleep.
Menses delayed due to stress: symptoms
If the menstrual irregularity is associated with stress, in addition to the absence of menstruation, a woman may be disturbed by other symptoms associated with a reaction to acute or chronic stress:
Irritability or depression
Indifference to the world around and what is happening
Decreased or opposite excessive appetite
Change in body weight
How does stress affect the cycle and why does stress delay menstruation?
The delay in menstruation after stress occurs due to the effect of stress on the hormonal background. That is why stress is the reason for the delay in menstruation.
In short, as a result of prolonged or intense stress exposure, a large amount of stress hormones – cortisol and prolactin – is produced. Excessive production of stress hormones leads to disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis – the hormonal chain that regulates the reproductive system.
Mismatch in the work of this chain leads to an imbalance of sex hormones. As a result, the growth of follicles in the ovaries stops and, in some cases, the maturation of the egg – ovulation does not occur and menstruation does not come.
This mechanism has evolutionary significance – under stress, the body has the task of mobilizing and preserving itself in the first place, and not leaving offspring, and therefore there is a delay in menstruation.
How long can menstruation be delayed under stress?
The beginning of a new cycle always falls on the first day of menstruation, and the duration of the cycle itself is very individual and normally ranges from 21 to 35 days. A woman needs to focus on the usual schedule. If your period is delayed by 3-5 days or more, you should take a pregnancy test and consult your doctor. The exceptions are the first two years after the onset of menstruation in adolescent girls, the lactation period and the onset of perimenopause.
The duration of the delay depends on the intensity and duration of the impact of stress on the body, as well as on the ability of the body to resist it. It has been proven that prolonged stress lowers the threshold of sensitivity to stress and even minor problems can become critical and lead to serious consequences.
Consultation with a gynecologist is necessary in case of:
Changes to habitual cycle time
Too heavy or scanty periods
Severe pain during menstruation
Bleeding outside of menses
In the absence of pregnancy, episodic menstrual irregularities do not pose a serious threat to women’s health, but if the irregularities persist for three or more cycles in a row or bring significant discomfort, you should consult a gynecologist for advice. It is necessary to identify the cause of the violation of the rhythm of menstruation.
The doctor will ask the necessary questions, conduct an examination and prescribe an examination. In the absence of visible reasons for the delay, the doctor will pay attention to the mental state of the woman.
Why is amenorrhea dangerous?
Amenorrhea is the absence of menses for 6 months. A long delay in menstruation indicates a violation of the hormonal balance in the body of a woman and other, often serious, pathologies. This affects not only the ability to conceive a child, but also the state of the whole organism as a whole. In case of a long delay in menstruation, a consultation with a doctor is necessary.
Delayed period due to stress, what should I do?
First of all, you need to minimize the level of stress in your life as much as possible. It may be worth considering psychotherapy or consulting a doctor for medication. Consider relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, dancing, and moderate exercise.
Set a daily routine and allocate enough time for rest. Normalize your sleep patterns. It would be better to stop using gadgets 2-3 hours before bedtime – when used, the brain receives a large flow of information and cannot fully relax, and the blue spectrum of screen radiation can disrupt the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time, sleep in complete darkness and silence for at least 7-8 hours.
Eat properly and in a balanced way. Include enough protein and fat in your diet. Give preference to unsaturated fats – nuts, cold-pressed oils, oily fish. Eat more vegetables and fruits, they are rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Give up strict restrictions and diets, because any diet is stressful for the body.
Follow the doctor’s recommendations, often with stress-related disorders, the doctor may limit himself to prescribing herbal preparations or vitamin-mineral complexes, including inositols. For example, Dikirogen contains two active forms of inositol at once, which contribute to the normalization of the balance of female sex hormones and the maturation of the egg, which means the onset of ovulation. In addition, myoinositol helps to reduce the level of the stress hormone prolactin. Manganese in Dikirogen is involved in the regulation of the hormonal and nervous systems. And folic acid, which is part of the composition, has a positive effect on the condition of the skin and hair.
A delay in menstruation due to stress can lead to serious disruption of the reproductive system. It is necessary to seek help from a specialist in time and take a comprehensive approach to solving the problem.
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Can there be a failure and delay in menstruation due to stress and what to do about it?
Last updated: 06/24/2022
Types of stress and its causes
Effects of stress on the female body 900 05
How long can a missed period be due to stress
When to go to the doctor
How to deal with stress
The menstrual cycle is a very important criterion by which to assess the condition of a woman’s body. With regular and normal bleeding, the absence of alarming symptoms, you can visit the gynecologist 1-2 times a year for prevention.
And any cycle failure and delay is a reason for an unscheduled visit, since it is important to find out the cause of the violations. One of them can be nervous tension and excessive worries – stress and menstruation are interconnected, and in the article we will tell you exactly how.
Delayed periods due to stress is quite common. Thus, the body protects itself from the influence of negative factors. The following causes can cause stress:
problems in the family and at work;
grief and loss – divorce, death of a close relative;
exhausting physical activity;
emotional overstrain, protracted conflicts;
previous injuries, operations;
a radical change in lifestyle;
moving to a region with a different climate.
Stress, even if it concerns only the emotional sphere, affects the physical health of a woman, and the reproductive system is no exception. Moreover, all types of stress can influence it:
Short-term: this is a protective reaction to a negative environmental factor. Such stress is natural, passing, and, as a rule, does not lead to serious changes in the functioning of the body, all reactions are temporary.
Long-term: prolonged exposure to a stressor leads to pathological conditions.
Delayed periods due to stress develops mainly due to hormonal changes. This happens due to the influence of stress hormones – cortisol and prolactin: an emotional outburst causes changes in the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland – the gland that produces prolactin.
Normally, prolactin has high values only during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If a woman is not pregnant, a large amount of prolactin leads to a slowdown in the thyroid gland and ovaries, negatively affects the mammary glands, and also causes a violation of the relationship with the pituitary gland. This is reflected in the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and sex hormones, which leads to an increase in the duration of the cycle, the interval between menstruation becomes longer. Sometimes periods can even stop altogether.
There is another mechanism for the development of delay due to stress. The latter leads to an increase in the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which also contributes to the disappearance of menstruation. And other consequences include a deterioration in the condition of the skin, the formation of fatty deposits, male pattern hair. A constant increase in cortisol can cause obesity and lead to the development of polycystic ovary syndrome.
If the level of prolactin is elevated, the herbal drug Cyclodinone® based on sacred vitex can help normalize the hormonal background. The drug is available in the form of oral drops and tablets. The drug was developed in Germany according to the unique concept of phytoneering.
Normally, the duration of the menstrual cycle is very individual. Therefore, it is important for a woman to focus on her own characteristics in order to determine how long a delay in menstruation lasts under stress . It is believed that the absence of menstruation for 3-5 days after the date of the expected bleeding is a cause for concern.
This does not apply to teenage girls with irregular periods or women who have entered perimenopause (usually between 40 and 45 years of age).
Any delay, especially if it occurs often, is not normal. It is important to consult a gynecologist, and if the reason for the increase in the interval between periods is really stress, he will refer you to specialists of a different profile, for example, a psychotherapist.
The following symptoms are very alarming:
no periods for more than 90 days;
bleeding longer, more profuse than usual;
menses very painful;
- 90,004 periods less than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart, three cycles in a row;
observed intermenstrual bleeding.
With such symptoms, it is worth contacting a gynecologist as soon as possible.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, so it is not always possible to completely protect yourself from worries and upheavals. It is important to learn how to resist overload, quickly and successfully adapt to change, and be able to restore emotional balance.
How to restore cycle if there was a delay in menstruation due to stress? Let’s consider several ways.
Everyone can have their own way to relax: for some it’s a warm bath with their favorite aromatic oils, for others it’s an active vacation like a bike ride or a short trip. This will help you forget about worries and get positive emotions. It is important to allocate time and energy to rest even in a busy schedule: without giving yourself positive emotions, you risk becoming even less productive.
Without good quality sleep, there is no point in establishing a menstrual cycle: it has been proven that a good night’s rest (7-9 hours) helps to feel better, prevents overeating and weight gain, and promotes good skin condition and complexion. And excellent health and pleasant appearance are the key to a positive mood.
The cyclic nature of the processes in our body obliges us to pay attention to the daily routine: it is better to get up and go to bed at about the same time. Failure of menstruation due to stress can develop against the background of exhausting loads, irregular working hours, combined with nervous tension, so it is important to regain an acceptable schedule.
The quality of nutrition greatly affects the functioning of the reproductive system. The daily menu should include fresh vegetables and fruits, a sufficient amount of protein, complex carbohydrates. It is better not to allow fasting and strict restrictions, unless a medical condition requires it and is not recommended by a doctor: rigid diets can do more harm than good. In cases where excess weight occurs, it is better to consult a nutritionist and develop your diet taking into account the needs for nutrients.