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Stress skipped period: Missed Period Due to Stress

Missed Period Due to Stress

Imagine you’re planning a dream vacation — taking a 13-hour flight to Sydney so you can swim in the Great Barrier Reef and trek through the Australian Outback. You’ve got a lot to organize and pack, and the thought of dealing with a menstrual period so far from home begins to worry you. Will you be able to handle any uncomfortable cramps and back pain on such a long flight? If your period comes while you’re on vacation, will you still be able to snorkel among the coral?

Your Menstrual Period and the Power of Stress

Even though you may not be planning an adventure around the world, stress and anxiety can still take a toll on you – and your period. Although some stress can be good and even help us challenge ourselves, too much can negatively impact health. The body is sensitive to any unexpected disruptions. Excessive worrying can put the digestive system into overdrive, causing stress symptoms like diarrhea, frequent urination, and abdominal pain; the pulmonary system may respond with rapid breathing.

The female reproductive system can be affected, too. In fact, for some women, stress may play a role in causing irregular or missed periods. As stress levels rise, there’s a chance that your menstrual period will temporarily stop, a condition known as secondary amenorrhea.

(If you’ve been dealing with amenorrhea for a few months, however, your doctor may ask about your health history and perform various tests, including checking hormone levels. Pregnancy, cysts, tumors, hormone deficiencies, and factors other than stress can cause more than one missed period.)

How Stress May Affect Menstruation

Not much is known about the relationship between stress and periods. However, stress certainly plays a role in suppressing the functioning of the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland — the body’s master gland — which, in turn, controls the thyroid and adrenal glands and the ovaries; they all work together to manage hormones.

Ovarian dysfunction may lead to problems with estrogen production, ovulation, or other reproductive processes. Estrogen is an important hormone that helps build the uterine lining and prepares the body for pregnancy. If the ovaries aren’t working properly, side effects may involve the menstrual cycle, including missed periods or irregular periods.

Getting Back on Track

Because stress can affect the part of the brain responsible for producing hormones, it can throw hormonal levels out of whack, which can lead to changes in the frequency and duration of your menstrual period.

Reducing your level of stress or finding effective coping mechanisms may help your body revert to a normal menstrual period. Talking with a therapist or possibly taking anti-anxiety medication can lower stress and help you manage stress symptoms, eventually allowing your system to return to regularity.

It’s not possible to completely eliminate stress from your everyday life, nor would you want to. Finding healthy methods to cope with excessive stress is the best way to not let it wreak havoc on your body’s natural functioning.

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How Long Can Stress Delay Your Period?

Updated

03 February 2023

|

Published

07 March 2019

Fact Checked

Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc., Lithuania

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

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.

References


“Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.” UpToDate,
www.uptodate.com/contents/functional-hypothalamic-amenorrhea-pathophysiology-and-clinical-manifestations.

“Stopped or Missed Periods.” NHS Choices, NHS, Aug. 2019,
www.nhs.uk/conditions/stopped-or-missed-periods.

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,
https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh33-4/272-283.pdf.

“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,
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16204431.

History of updates

Current version
(03 February 2023)

Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc., Lithuania

Published
(03 March 2019)

Three stages of stress

Stress is one of the normal states of the body, as it is associated with an increase in adaptive mechanisms. Stress is an essential part of life. Stress reactions phylogenetically helped a person to cope with difficulties, therefore, in this aspect, stress reactions are useful. However, when stress has a vivid expression and a prolonged manifestation, in this case it causes harm to human health.

Selye observations

Hans Selye is considered to be the founder of the theory of biological stress. In his research, Selye observed that the body adapts to external stressors in terms of a biological model that attempts to restore and maintain internal balance. In its attempt to maintain homeostasis, the body uses a hormonal response that directly combats the stressor.

Three phases of the stress response

1. Stage of anxiety

During the alarm response stage, a distress signal is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus ensures the release of hormones called glucocorticoids.

Glucocorticoids trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline gives a person a boost of energy: the heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, blood sugar also rises. These physiological changes are regulated by a part of the human autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic branch.

The adrenal glands begin to actively produce an increased amount of cortisol and are in a state of hyperfunction. This condition can be confirmed by using a pattern of changes in the hormonal profile of saliva, which will be the following indicators: elevated cortisol levels / normal DHEA levels.

2. Resistance stage

During the resistance stage, the body tries to counteract the physiological changes that occurred during the alarm stage. The resistance stage is regulated by a part of the autonomic nervous system called the parasympathetic.

The parasympathetic nervous system is trying to bring the body back to normal: the amount of cortisol produced decreases, heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal. The level of body resistance is much higher than usual. At this stage, a balanced expenditure of adaptation resources is carried out.

If the stressful situation ends, the body returns to its normal state during the resistance phase. However, if the stressor remains, the body remains on guard to fight its manifestations.

The adrenals adapt to this stage already using a mechanism called “pregnenolone hijack”. Pregnenolone is a cholesterol metabolite and is the precursor chemical for the production of both cortisol and sex hormones, including testosterone. When the metabolism of pregnenolone changes, the level of testosterone produced in the body decreases. At this stage, the pattern of the hormonal profile in saliva will be represented by the following indicators: elevated cortisol/low DHEA.

3. Exhaustion stage

In this stage, stress persists for a long period. The body begins to lose the ability to deal with the stressor and reduce its harmful effects, as all adaptive capacity is depleted. The exhaustion stage can lead to stress overload and health problems if not addressed immediately.

At this stage, the adrenal glands are no longer able to adapt to stress and have exhausted their functionality. Initially, salivary hormonal profiles will show normal cortisol/low DHEA levels, or cortisol levels indicative of hyperfunction and reduced function will be combined with normal DHEA levels). When the adrenal glands have exhausted their capacity, will be determined: low cortisol / low DHEA.

If stress continues, the cofactors needed to produce cortisol are depleted, causing the body to break the pregnenolone bypass mechanism and switch back to producing DHEA. This pattern would be low cortisol/normal DHEA.

Stress hormones .

Adrenaline : regulates heart rate;

regulates the flow of air into the lungs;

affects the diameter of blood vessels and bronchi.

Cortisol : increases blood sugar;

suppresses the immune system;

speeds up metabolism.

The most important hormones that form the stress response are adrenaline and norepinephrine . They are synthesized by the sympathetic nervous system. Another important class of stress-response hormones are called glucocorticoids, of which hormone 9 is best known.0003 cortisol . Cortisol helps the body cope with stress. Elevated levels of cortisol can be associated not only with a clear danger to humans, but also with some changes in living conditions that the body perceives as a danger. Sometimes the best of intentions, such as exercising, “healthy” eating, can lead to a nervous breakdown. But before that, there was chronic stress that was ignored. Excessive physical activity, lack of quality nutrition (diet, malnutrition), lack of sleep, alcohol abuse, endocrine disorders can lead to distress (“bad stress.”

A group of glucocorticoid hormones produced by the adrenal glands and their action is often similar to that of adrenaline. Adrenaline begins to act within a few seconds, and glucocorticoids maintain its action from several minutes to several hours. Hormone control is in the area of ​​​​responsibility of the brain.

During stress, the pancreas begins to produce the hormone glucagon. A cocktail of glucocorticoids, glucagon, and secretions from the sympathetic nervous system raises blood glucose levels. Glucose provides the energy needed to respond to stress. Other hormones are also activated. The pituitary gland produces prolactin, which, among other effects, contributes to the suppression of reproductive function during stress. The pituitary gland and brain also produce a special class of endogenous morphine-like substances, endorphins and enkephalins, which, among other things, dull the sensation of pain. Finally, the pituitary gland produces vasopressin, a fluid-regulating hormone that plays an important role in the cardiovascular response to stress. Vasopressin maintains water homeostasis within the body, which is essential for life.

In response to stress, some glands are activated, and various hormonal systems are inhibited during stress. The secretion of various hormones of the reproductive system, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, is reduced. The production of hormones associated with growth function (such as growth hormone) is also suppressed, as is the production of insulin, a pancreatic hormone that normally helps the body store energy to use later.

These scientific facts speak of a direct connection between the emotional state and diseases such as diabetes, reproductive system disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and various addictions.

In today’s world, people face a huge number of stressful situations every day. Any of them can be the last straw and provoke depression. Knowing how stress is treated is necessary: ​​psychotherapy, physical activity, relaxation, healthy sleep and proper nutrition. Cultivate the spirit so as not to be afraid of mental, physical and material pain, learn to earn good money, go in for sports, be healthy!

Leading laboratory assistant of the department
of functional diagnostics Malakhovskaya S.N.

Selye’s three stages of stress: anxiety, resistance, exhaustion

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  • Stress

General information

Stress is one of the normal states of the body, as it is associated with an increase in adaptive mechanisms. Stress is an essential part of life. Stress reactions phylogenetically helped a person to cope with difficulties, therefore, in this aspect, stress reactions are useful. However, when stress has a vivid expression and a prolonged manifestation, in this case it causes harm to human health.

Types of stress

According to the type of impact, stress is systemic and mental. Systemic stress reflects the body’s response to injury, inflammation, infection, and so on. Mental stress first causes changes in the psycho-emotional sphere, and then manifests itself at the biological level.

Selye’s observations

Hans Selye is considered the founder of the theory of biological stress. Hans Selye’s model of the general adaptation syndrome provides a clear biological explanation for how the body reacts and adapts to stress.

In his research, Selye observed that the body adapts to external stressors in terms of a biological model that attempts to restore and maintain internal balance. In its attempt to maintain homeostasis, the body uses a hormonal response that directly combats the stressor. The body’s struggle against stress is the main theme of the general adaptation syndrome.

Another observation that Selye found was that stress responses have their limits. The body’s limited supply of energy to adapt to a stressful environment is depleted when the body is constantly exposed to a stressor.

Three phases of the stress response

General Adaptation Syndrome is a model that consists of three elements or phases that describe the body’s response to stress:

called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus ensures the release of hormones called glucocorticoids.

Glucocorticoids trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline gives a person a boost of energy: the heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, blood sugar also rises. These physiological changes are regulated by a part of the human autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic branch.

The adrenal glands begin to actively produce an increased amount of cortisol and are in a state of hyperfunction. This condition can be confirmed by using a pattern of changes in the hormonal profile of saliva, which will be the following indicators: elevated cortisol levels / normal DHEA levels.

2. Resistance Stage

During the resistance stage, the body attempts to counteract the physiological changes that occurred during the alarm stage. The resistance stage is regulated by a part of the autonomic nervous system called the parasympathetic.

The parasympathetic nervous system is trying to bring the body back to normal: the amount of cortisol produced decreases, heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal. The level of body resistance is much higher than usual. At this stage, a balanced expenditure of adaptation resources is carried out.

If the stressful situation ends, the body returns to its normal state during the resistance stage. However, if the stressor remains, the body remains on guard to fight its manifestations.

The adrenal glands adapt to this stage, already using a mechanism called “pregnenolone capture”. Pregnenolone is a cholesterol metabolite and is the precursor chemical for the production of both cortisol and sex hormones, including testosterone.