COVID-19 Pandemic Period Problems and How to Address Them

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect of our daily lives - how and where we work, see friends and family, and what we do in our downtime - and that can even include our menstrual cycles. According to a March 2015 study, high stress levels have been associated with menstrual irregularity, meaning that your period may come later or earlier than expected. Everyday Health reported that increased stress can even cause your period to temporarily stop, a condition known as amenorrhea. 


Stress and menstruation are connected due to our body’s hormones. When speaking with Allure, OBGYN Leena Nathan explained that stress leads to a rise in cortisol (the main stress hormone in the body), which in turn subdues the hormones responsible for our menstrual cycles: follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen, progesterone. In other words, since your body is focused on stress - releasing cortisol and adrenaline, making the heart pound faster, tightening muscles, sharpening senses, and increasing blood pressure - it takes attention off the menstrual cycle and may cease ovulation. However, this doesn’t mean that you should cease using contraception, according to Dr. Nathan. 


In addition to determining whether or not you menstruate, stress can also have an impact on your PMS and period symptoms. According to an August 2004 study, there is a link between stress and dysmenorrhoea (also known as painful periods). Dr. Rhandi Wise at Baton Rouge General adds that along with amplified symptoms, stress can affect the heaviness of your period, making it heavier or lighter than normal. 


On top of stress directly affecting your menstrual cycle, it can also indirectly affect how you menstruate based on its impact on your sleep. Dr. Wise states that if your sleep schedule has been off because of the pandemic, it can influence your period. This is especially the case if your altered sleep schedule has caused you to take your birth control at a different time each day, since that would also affect the timing of your cycle. 


It’s equally important to note how the pandemic has affected the healthcare industry, and our view of it. Going to the doctor might feel scarier and less accessible than normal with social distancing and quarantining being a priority. If you’re experiencing period issues, those could easily and unfortunately take a backseat to your pandemic fear and precautions. Yet, periods are a significant indication of our health and should be seen as such. 

So, what can you do about all of this? First of all, schedule an appointment with your doctor if anything is off about your period - yes, even during the pandemic. It’s important to rule out other potential causes before deciding that stress is the culprit. Plus, your doctor’s office likely has pandemic measures in place that will keep you safe. Secondly, work on finding ways to manage your stress. While there are many ways to cope with stress  -exercise, meditation, listening to music, self-care, creating a routine - it might be helpful for you to speak with a professional. You can easily do so via Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist or Find a Psychiatrist resources.


Written by Anna Gragert

Anna Gragert is a writer, editor, and content strategist who has worked with brands like the L.A. Times, Teen Vogue, Hunker, Apartment Therapy, InStyle, Bust, Nylon, Elle, and more.