Hormones that are largely responsible for normal menstrual cycles are altered by stress, which may result in irregular cycles, doctors say.

Why women are facing irregular periods during the lockdownRepresentative Image
Coronavirus Health Monday, April 20, 2020 - 18:00

“I am usually on the mark. I get my period on the day it is supposed to arrive. So you can assume how I freaked out when it was late. I thought I was pregnant again,” says Chennai-based Shreya*.

Many women have been experiencing irregularities in their menstrual cycle, since the start of lockdown. While some women, like Shreya, grew concerned about a delayed period, others experienced different irregularities in their usual cycles.

“I got my period as per my usual timings, but it lasted for more than a week and the flow was not normal. I had severe cramps also and couldn’t even get up out of the bed,” says 25-year-old Aditi, a techie from Bengaluru.

So why are so many experiencing such a drastic change in their cycles while in lockdown?

“There has been a drastic change in the lifestyle since lockdown started. Diets have changed, sleeping habits and patterns have changed, people are under more stress than usual. This all definitely takes a toll on our overall well-being,” explains Dr Archana S K, a Chennai-based gynaecologist.

Hormones that are largely responsible for normal menstrual cycles are altered by stress. This, in turn, causes a disturbance in cycles.

“A high-stress environment has been linked to altered menstrual cycles. This may manifest in different ways, some women might have their periods earlier while others might be getting them late. Yet others complain about exaggerated cycles and flows,” she adds.

A hormone called cortisol is released by the adrenal glands, which are present on top of the kidneys, when an individual is under immense pressure and stress. Cortisol is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’ as a result. It is involved in regulating several other processes including sleep/wake cycle, regulation of blood pressure and release of glucose levels in the blood. It is also involved in a stress response called ‘fight-or-flight’ which allows humans to react in stressful situations.

If there is an excess of cortisol, the resulting effects on the body can cause a massive change in menstrual cycles.

“Sleep patterns usually get affected when someone is under stress. Cortisol plays a large role in this. Prolonged exposure to increased levels of the hormone has also been known to cause menstrual irregularities in women,” adds the doctor.

It’s important to note that such irregularities are a common occurrence in view of stress. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet and staying physically active are ways that can help control this.

What women with preexisting conditions should know

“Women who have pre-existing issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), generally experience major irregularities in their cycles because there is such an imbalance in the hormones already. Given this, they should look out for any major changes,” says Dr Kavitha Lakshmi Easwaran, an Obstetrician & Gynecologist at Motherhood Hospital in Bengaluru.

“We can’t say for sure if someone is experiencing an abnormal or irregular cycle due to the stressful environment or because of any underlying issue. But the important thing is to not panic. Follow the usual means of care. Many doctors are now tending to patients via video or phone consultations for less severe issues. So if there are any significant concerns, they can contact a doctor for help in this manner,” she adds.

Those with existing issues should continue their medication (if any) as advised and practice a healthy lifestyle, by staying active and eating nutritious food.

“In case there are any further concerns, turn to a healthcare provider for a proper consultation, but other than that, maintaining routine and staying healthy can prove to be extremely beneficial,” says Dr Archana.

*Name changed

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