Factors That May be Impacting Your Period (Without You Even Realizing!)
Most of us know the drill when that time of month rolls around. We bust out the tampons, pain relievers and maybe a heating pad, and we do our best to mitigate the impact of our periods on our day-to-day lives. If you’re lucky, then your period is consistent and manageable. (Take our short quiz to find out if you may be suffering from heavy periods.) But sometimes outside influences that we don’t necessarily associate with our periods can actually have an unexpected impact on our menstrual cycles. Read on for a list of factors that may be more related to your monthly flow than you thought.
Ever hear of marathoners losing touch with their menstrual cycle? It happens. One study concludes that nearly half of all exercising women experience subtle menstrual irregularities, and one third may be amenorrhoeic, or missing their period entirely.1 The reason for this is that when we exercise, our body releases what’s known as “stress hormones” (similar to those released when our “fight or flight” instincts kick in). While these hormones contribute to how great we feel after exercising, they can also result in an irregular or nonexistent period if we push ourselves to the limit. As much as losing your period might sound like a win, if you tend to engage in intense regular exercises and notice that your period has changed or disappeared, be sure to talk with your doctor, because exercise-induced amenorrhea has serious long-term health consequences.2
Your monthly cycle is all about hormone levels, so any medications you take that influence your hormones could be indirectly affecting your period, too. While a classic example of this is birth control medication, other less obvious forms of prescription medicines, such as anti-inflammatory or thyroid medications, can also contribute to irregular or heavy periods.3 Be sure to talk to your doctor about potential side effects whenever you’re prescribed a new medication, and specifically bringing up its potential impact on your menstrual health is never a bad idea.
Remember when we were talking about the release of “stress hormones” as contributing to an irregular flow a little while ago? Yeah – that applies in a more general sense, too. When you feel abnormally stressed, be it from that huge upcoming presentation at work, financial issues or relationship drama, your body goes through a physical reaction that directly increases various hormone levels, and this can lead to period irregularities.4 Turn to your healthcare professional if you think you may be stressed to the point of a noticeable physical impact.
Cutting back on the beauty sleep? Not a great idea. You can add a regulated menstrual cycle to the dozens of reasons that getting enough sleep is crucial for good health. A study published in sleep medicine found that interruptions in your circadian rhythm (that internal clock that tells your body when it needs to sleep), is associated with a disrupted menstrual cycle.5 In other words, your late period might actually be linked to those two all-nighters you just pulled.
Uterine Health Issues
The most serious of factors on this list is the possibility that a larger health issue could be affecting your period. Uterine fibroids, endometriosis and abnormal uterine bleeding are all gynecological health issues that directly impact your period, and they often cause cycles that are long, painful and characterized by heavy bleeding.6 If you think you may be suffering from heavy periods, you should visit www.changethecycle.com and speak with your doctor about the possibility that you have abnormal uterine bleeding.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. High prevalence of subtle and severe menstrual disturbances in exercising women: confirmation using daily hormone measures. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19945961. Accessed on September 26, 2017.
- University of Southern California Fertility. 5 Things You Need to Know About Exercise-Induced Amenorrhea http://uscfertility.org/5-things-need-know-exercise-induced-amenorrhea/. Accessed on September 26, 2017.
- Mayo Clinic. Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menorrhagia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20338408 Accessed on September 26, 2017.
- Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Stress and hormones. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/. Accessed on September 26, 2017.
- Sleep Medicine. Circadian rhythms, sleep, and the menstrual cycle. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383933. Accessed on September 27, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control. Blood disorders in women: Heavy menstrual bleeding. www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html. Accessed June 12, 2016.
- Posted by Dot.
- On November 16, 2017