Can Stress Affect Your Menstrual Cycles? Why Stress May Be Preventing Your Pregnancy

July 17, 2020 | By: Monica Rincon, MSc., NFP Health Professional 

Work deadlines approaching quickly, nephew’s birthday party with the entire family coming up, and now your washing machine just broke. Sound like you? Your stress levels may be impacting your cycles.

Stress affects women's hormones involved in their menstrual cycle, causing temporary or continuous ovulatory dysfunction. In other words, ovulation doesn’t occur as expected. A woman under stress may not ovulate, or ovulation may be delayed. Another potential effect is ovulation may not occur at an optimal stage that may not support the first weeks of a pregnancy because lower amounts of progesterone are being produced. 

Stress and Your Fertility Hormones

During times of stress, a hormone such as cortisol is released from the adrenal glands, which control stress and blood pressure.  The severity and intensity of the stress determine the effect of cortisol in the menstrual cycle, and the intensity of the effect on the menstrual cycle varies among women

Cortisol and progesterone are made from the same  “mother-hormone”, pregnenolone .If women are under stressful situations, the body will prefer to produce cortisol instead of progesterone. Cortisol results in lower levels of estrogen and progesterone from the ovary, which affects your ability to produce a robust egg and to maintain the pregnancy during the early weeks.

A woman under chronic stress produces even more cortisol. This inhibits the production of sufficient progesterone and can lead to relative estrogen dominance, creating more serious premenstrual symptoms (PMS).  Some symptoms that could be a sign that your PMS is more serious include acne, headaches, digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, bloating), mood swings, anxiety, irritability/anger, fatigue and craving carbohydrates such as sugar.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress

Acute stress is one single case of a challenging event in a specific period. The good news is that ovulation will resume as soon as the stressful condition is over. Detecting your levels of LH with Premom allows you to predict when ovulation may occur, even if it is delayed. Charting your menstrual cycle and making notes about your emotions or events in your calendar can also be helpful.  (Note the menstruation, spotting, and cervical mucus tracking in the example below.)

Chronic stress is ongoing. Such causes may include illness, depression, lack of sleep, under or over-exercise, infertility and nutritional deficiency.  This type of stress wears and tears your body and mind. This repeated exposure to stressful situations  may reduce LH levels, inhibiting  the occurrence of ovulation. LH quantitative strips allow you to measure the levels of LH to determine if ovulation is most likely to occur. Multiple LH surges may be a sign of stress and can be detected with Premom quantitative strips within the menstrual cycle.

How can you help yourself to reduce stress?

You can start with daily choices that can help prevent stress such as getting adequate sleep, engaging in regular and moderate exercise, journaling, praying, meditation, and good nutrition.

For some, not being able to get pregnant quickly can generate great emotional distress for couples who want to have a child. Couples can optimize their emotional health and reduce their stress levels by following specially designed programs, such as counselling (5) that offer proven  methodologies to improve their well –being while there are navigating to parenthood. 

You can start with daily choices that can help prevent stress such as getting adequate sleep, engaging in regular and moderate exercise, journaling, praying, meditation, and good nutrition.

For some, not being able to get pregnant quickly can generate great emotional distress for couples who want to have a child. Couples can optimize their emotional health and reduce their stress levels by following specially designed programs, that offer proven  methodologies to improve their well–being while navigating into parenthood. 

Premom has this support for you. Learn more about the uniquely designed Organic Conceptions program that can now  be found directly in your Premom app.  Tap on “Consultation” in your settings to get started.

Monica Rincon is a certified Marquette Method Natural Family Planning (NFP) Teacher / fertility awareness educator and a medical microbiologist.

Sources: 

  1. Montero-López E, Santos-Ruiz A, García-Ríos MC, Rodríguez-Blázquez M, Rogers HL, Peralta-Ramírez MI. The relationship between the menstrual cycle and cortisol secretion: Daily and stress-invoked cortisol patterns. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 2018;131:67-72.
  2. Billings EB, J. Variations of the cycle and Reproductive Health. Method TtBO, editor: Ovulation Method Research and Reference of Australia; 1997.
  3. Manikandan S, Nillni YI, Zvolensky MJ, Rohan KJ, Carkeek KR, Leyro TM. The role of emotion regulation in the experience of menstrual symptoms and perceived control over anxiety-related events across the menstrual cycle. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 2016;19(6):1109-17.
  4. Wolfram M, Bellingrath S, Kudielka BM. The cortisol awakening response (CAR) across the female menstrual cycle. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011;36(6):905-12.
  5. Boivin J. A review of psychosocial interventions in infertility. Social Science & Medicine. 2003;57(12):2325-41.
  6. Yesildere Saglam H, Orsal O. Effect of exercise on premenstrual symptoms: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2020;48:102272.

Updated August 24, 2020

emotional health, fertility, infertility, Organic Conceptions, ovulation, self-care
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