When an abnormal cycle is the new normal

My Hormonology

When an abnormal cycle is the new normal

BY GABRIELLE LICHTERMAN

 

Curious why your menstrual cycle is out of whack, your hormonal effects are different than usual or your body is going through other unexpected changes?

Abnormal can be the new normal for your menstrual cycle and health when you’re under intense stress.

Part of the reason for these changes is that stress hormones (such as cortisol) can block ovulation, which can throw off your menstrual cycle and bleeding pattern. Or, if you ovulate, stress can trigger a cascade of changes within your body that cause more intense bothersome cycle-related issues.

Stress also triggers other challenges in your body by spurring inflammation, muscle tension and an overactive “fight-or-flight” response. As a result of all this, you can have…

  • Irregular periods or skipped periods
  • A change in bleeding patterns
  • More or less bleeding than usual
  • Different intensity of menstrual cramps
  • More frequent and/or more intense migraines
  • Headaches
  • Yeast infections
  • A greater number and/or intensity of premenstrual emotional or physical issues
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Greater hair shedding
  • Acne
  • Nausea, gas, bloating, constipation

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When to talk with your healthcare provider

It’s important to remind yourself that abnormal can be the new normal while under stress so you don’t stress yourself out even more by worrying about these changes.

However, if you notice symptoms that could be problematic—such as excessive menstrual bleeding (you’re going through one pad every hour, for example), intense pain or pain accompanied by fever—please call or video chat your healthcare provider and let her or him know. Most health insurers now offer telemedicine as part of their plans, and you can sign up for private telemedicine help at a variety of online companies, such as Teladoc.com.

This too shall pass

It can sometimes feel like all these unwanted changes will last forever. But, typically once the stressful situation subsides, your body will work on getting back into balance again.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for things in your life to calm down to lessen some of the problems caused by stress. That’s because you can do healthy stress-busting activities now, such as exercising, meditating, practicing yoga, talking with trusted pals, doing a favorite hobby, creating art and journaling. Also try to limit your exposure to stressors (such as the news) to avoid re-traumatizing yourself. And get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep nightly, which helps keep brain chemicals responsible for mood and optimism at optimal levels, boosting resilience to the issues you’re facing.

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