Stress can cause your menstrual cycle to be late or stop completely. Stress does this by decreasing the hormones in your brain that direct your ovaries to grow your eggs, make estrogen and ovulate. This, in turn, affects when your uterus bleeds. The effect of stress on your menstrual cycles depends on the level of stress, how prolonged it is and how you cope with it.
Stress and Menstruation
Sudden or prolonged stress can affect your reproductive hormones. It interferes with how your ovaries function to make estrogen and progesterone. In addition to making your period late, stress can also affect your menstrual cycle in other ways.
- Late periods: Your eggs grow and your ovaries make some estrogen, but it takes longer for you to ovulate. The first half of your cycle will be longer and your menstrual cycle will be late (oligomenorrhea). You will bleed about 12 to 14 days after you do ovulate. This is a moderate result of the effect of stress on your reproductive hormones.
- No periods: Your ovaries make low levels of estrogen so the lining of the uterus doesn’t grow at all. You will not have a period that cycle (hypothalamic amenorrhea) because you have no uterine lining to shed. This is the extreme result of the effect of stress.
- Irregular periods: Your eggs grow and you make estrogen but you don’t ovulate. In this case, the lining of your uterus will break down and shed when it feels like it. Your bleeding may come early or late and you may bleed on and off. The amount of bleeding depends on by how much and for how long your uterine lining was stimulated by estrogen.
Consequences of Abnormal Menstrual Cycles
- No periods (hypothalamic amenorrhea): If your menstrual cycle is late because of low estrogen levels or for more than six months, your bones can begin to thin. This puts you at risk for osteoporosis.
- Late or irregular menstrual cycles: The lining of your uterus could grow abnormally and put you at risk for cancer of the uterus if your periods are consistently late for more than three cycles or you bleed on and off for three or more cycles.
If any bleeding is heavy or last more than 10 days, this could be a sign of an abnormal uterine lining.
By- Vilma Ruddock M.D.