Today I’m answering my top women’s health question I get from patients and clients about stress and periods: “Does stress cause irregular menstruation, heavy & irregular periods and PMS, even if I am on the pill?” Well the answer is YES!
Most people suffer from low grade chronic stress and suffer in silence because of a few reasons:
Their brain gets used to running in ‘fight or flight’ overdrive all the time so they don’t notice or even believe they are stressed. This is a biggie.
They can’t see a way out of their stress and overwhelm without living in a cave and escaping their live—which they don’t want to do—they just want to be able to cope better, be a better version of themselves in their current life.
So that’s why we are stressed but don’t pay attention to it, and there are a few key reasons why this chronic stress affects your period, even if you are on a birth control pill.
The pill has hormones that prevent you from ovulating mid-cycle and then when you take your ‘sugar pills’ your period comes due to the hormone withdrawal, mimicking a natural cycle and preventing pregnancy. But your body is still making it’s own hormones too—estrogen and progesterone are the main ones that have to do with your period and your cycle.
And this one called Progesterone is one of the key hormones that regulates the menstrual cycle. It gets made in your ovaries, in your corpus luteum during the second half of your menstrual cycle and in your adrenal glands. Guess what though? It gets made from the SAME building block i.e. precursor as your STRESS hormones.
So, what happens to many people when they are under chronic stress, is that your body gets confused and thinks that making stress hormones is more important than making babies and making sure your period comes on time. It thinks you are constantly trying to escape a sabre-toothed tiger. So what it does is it steals the building block or precursors to make stress hormones and there isn’t as much left over to make progesterone.
Your brain and body thinks its doing you a favour because it thinks your life is in danger (we haven’t evolved yet to know the difference between acute danger from a tiger and mental threats from chronic low grade daily threats). A Lack of progesterone messes up your menstrual cycles!! Combined with too much estrogen (which gets made in excess in fat cells around our tummy area), low progesterone is a huge issue and leads to host of hormonal issues and imbalances, even difficulty getting pregnant as well as nightmare periods.
Many naturopaths will recommend adding progesterone cream or pills, and every case is different of course, but the core issue is dealing on a brain and body hormone level with chronic low grade mental threats—chronic low grade stresses. This takes time and isn’t a quick fix but it is the number one important thing to tackle if you have bad periods or irregular cycles.