INSPIRE Third Edition: June 2020 - Page 20

Hi everyone, I'm Kirsten and I'm a registered nutritional therapist with over 11 years experience working in various healthcare settings, specialising in nutrition for women’s health, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fertility, pre/postnatal and children’s health.

Ever since lockdown began, we’ve experienced disrupted sleeping patterns, low energy levels, mood swings and more. To add to this list, many women have reported changes to their menstrual cycles, from increased menstrual pain, late periods or longer than normal periods.

Stress could be the culprit

It's common for women to experience these changes in their cycle when exposed to physical and emotional stress.

Stress activates a pathway in the body called the 'Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis' - an interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands.

The actions of this are tightly regulated to ensure the body can respond quickly to a stressful event and return to a normal state just as quickly.⠀

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Have you noticed a change in your menstrual cycle during lockdown?

By Kirsten Oddy

However, when we experience prolonged or repeated periods of stress, there is sustained HPA axis activation, which signals your hypothalamus to slow down your body's non-vital functions such as reproduction.

This engages a state of 'fight or flight', inhibiting the secretion and production of important reproductive hormones and in turn your menstrual cycle and hormone balance could be affected.

What if your periods have stopped altogether?

Whether this has been during lockdown or longer, an absence of your period is known as amenorrhea - more specifically, if you used to have a period but now don't, this is called secondary amenorrhea.

Aside from stress, some other reasons to consider are:

Pregnancy - Not to be overlooked. It is an obvious possibility if you're used to having regular periods and they stop suddenly. But also a not-so-obvious possibility for those who have not had a period for many months after coming off the pill - you could still be pregnant!⁠

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