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Covid pandemic stress is making women’s periods WORSE, docs warn

COVID pandemic stress is making women’s periods worse, a study has found.

More than half of women studied by British researchers experienced a change in their menstrual cycle during the first lockdown.

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Women are moodier and are bleeding more during their periods in lockdown, a study has found


Women are moodier and are bleeding more during their periods in lockdown, a study has foundCredit: Alamy

And most of the changes were to participants’ levels of irritability, emotional feeling, motivation and worry.

But headaches, fatigue and cravings were also more frequent compared to pre-Covid.

The team said the “greatest contributor” towards changes in symptoms during “that time of the month” was stress.

Stress is known to impact on a woman’s normal cycle, as well as diet, exercise, and lack of sleep and energy.

The pandemic “could result in nationwide spread of exacerbated menstrual cycles symptoms”, the study warned.

And although the end of lockdowns is on the horizon, scientists said women should be aware that changes in periods are linked to fertility.

They wrote that “long term stress could have a significant negative impact on fertility and female reproductive health” as well as induce “premature brain ageing”.

Half of women reported a change in cycles

The study was led by Georgie Bruinvels of Orreco Ltd, a company that supports the healthcare of athletes, with the help of exercise and sport scientists at the universities of Loughborough, Lincoln and Nottingham.

It has not been peer-reviewed by other scientists yet.

A total of 749 women took part in a survey between May and June 2020, during the UK’s first lockdown.

They were quizzed on their typical menstrual cycle and periods, as well as lifestyle factors including diet and exercise.

A “normal” menstrual cycle is between 22 and 35 days, from the first day of a woman’s period to the day before her next one. The bleed lasts anywhere between two and seven days.

Over the course of the cycle, the rollercoaster of hormones causes a variety of symptoms, particularly in the days leading up to the period.

Some 52 per cent of women experienced a change of some kind in their menstrual cycle during the lockdown period.

The change in symptoms reported by women in the survey


The change in symptoms reported by women in the survey

What can cause a messed up menstrual cycle?

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused many to experience stress and anxiety, which has in turn impacted their periods, there are other reasons your cycle could be facing disruption.

Fibroids: Many women are unaware they have a fibroid as there are usually no symptoms. They are growths that develop around the womb and can disrupt the normal flow of blood.

Contraceptive pill: Depending on the sort of pill you take you may experience irregular bleeding. The progesterone-only pill is know to cause this in some patients.

Endometriosis: Is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in different places. This can cause painful periods as well as an irregular cycle.

The implant (IUD): Having an IUD may cause spotting or missed periods. An IUD is a thin copper wire fitted inside the arm and is a form of birth control.

Hormonal disorders: Conditons such as polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause some women to miss their periods.

Thyroid disoders: This can bring on irregular bleeding as well as sporadoc cycles.

If you are concerned about any of your symptoms you can call 111 for advise. Always call 999 in an emergency.

Psychosocial symptoms had changed in over half of all participants, with over half reporting a lack of motivation (59 per cent), focus (53 per cent) and concentration (55 per cent).

Irritability, heightened emotions, worry and being distracted were all reported as being exacerbated in over half of all participants.

This was regardless of whether women were on hormonal birth control, such as the Pill.

A change in cycle length, either getting shorter or longer, was reported by 52.6 per cent of women, which was more common in women who were on birth control.

The women had been asked about their job and financial situation before and during the lockdown, and how both affected their stress levels.

And the increased stress over lockdown was related to changes in cycles.

“Participants who reported increased stress/worry in family and personal health were significantly associated with changes in menstrual symptoms,” the researchers said.

High levels of job security stress was shown to increase the number of days bleeding (54 per cent).

The findings suggested changes to periods could be managed by doing exercise – particularly HIIT – and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

It’s not the first time the phenomenon has been reported, researchers said, noting a spike in women missing their periods during the war.

Recent research has reported that students under a high amount of perceived stress were four times more likely to miss their periods.

And women with stressful jobs are twice as likely to experience shorter cycle length, studies have found.

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