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What is the Connection Between Stress and Menstruation?

Article Details
  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Stress and menstruation are interlinked and each one can affect the other. High levels of stress may interrupt the normal menstrual cycle, causing abnormal menstruation and even stopping it completely. On the other hand, menstruation may increase stress levels in some women. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that stress-relieving actions need to be taken.

Although it may differ significantly from woman to woman, the normal menstrual cycle is 28 days, during which changing hormone levels activate different processes, culminating in menstruation. In the middle of the cycle, usually at around day 12, ovulation occurs. This is when an egg is released from the ovary, travels down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus, which has a thickened endometrium.

If the egg is fertilized, in the case of pregnancy, it implants in the endometrium. If, however, pregnancy does not occur, the endometrial lining is released, resulting in menstrual bleeding. The menstrual blood consists of the egg, if present, the endometrial lining, and some blood that is released from blood vessels in the endometrium.

Menstrual cycles may differ from woman to woman both in length of the full cycle and length of bleeding time. Environmental factors may also play a significant role. This is where the connection between stress and menstruation lies. High levels of stress can result in changes in the body's hormones. Constant or long-term stress may affect the sensitive feedback mechanisms of the body, resulting in intermittent or even absent menstruation.

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Stress and menstruation are linked, too, in that some women experience severe pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS), including stress, depression, anger or anxiety. Various complementary medicines may help in alleviating PMS. In severe cases, anti-depressant drugs may be prescribed.

To stop the connection between stress and menstruation, stress levels must be lowered. Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, healthy eating, ensuring enough sleep and doing relaxing activities are vital. In most cases stress levels can be lowered successfully purely with non-drug measures, but in other cases medical intervention may be necessary.

It is vital that stress be reduced to ensure healthy functioning of the reproductive system, especially in women trying to get pregnant where the connection between stress and menstruation is key. While some women's menstrual cycles are always irregular, an unusually irregular menstrual cycle should be investigated by a doctor or gynecologist.

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