Can Stress Affect Your Period?
Is stress behind your irregular or missed period? Here’s how to tell.
Stress and periods go together like peanut butter and jelly.. in the worst way. As if getting your period wasn’t anxiety-inducing enough (time to unwind the heating pad, yet AGAIN -- and where is that stash of dark chocolate?), stress can also cause major shifts in your period and menstrual cycle, namely delaying it. A recent study found that high levels of stress can cause irregular periods.
Stressing about not getting or missing your period can actually make you...not get your period. It’s a real chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Or in this case, stress-about-the-not-fertilized-egg and the not-fertilized-egg scenario.
Stress less and use our period tracker to know when you’re period is scheduled to start and when it is scheduled to stop.
Why does stress cause delayed/missed/late periods?
Even if you rarely have to deal with irregular periods, sometimes stress can throw a wrench in the works and mess up your whole menstrual cycle.
Yup, stress can actually cause your period to be late or delayed when your body is so freaked out by keeping you calm and what’s happening around you, that makes you anxious, that your body’s hormones hold off on critical parts of your menstrual cycle, like ovulation. Think about it from a cavewoman perspective. Stress causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, and if you’re running from a giant wooly mammoth, let’s say, it makes sense that your body would be like, “Oh this would be a not-so-great time to have a baby right now” and hit pause on keeping your reproductive systems ready-to-go. While yes, this does introduce a whole new set of stress, your body probably thinks that Cavewoman-you would likely not have time to ask, “Oh crap, why is my period late?” in this scenario.
Ideally you are not so anxious that your body interprets your stress level as running-from-wooly-mammoth-high, but you get it.
How long can stress delay your period? Like, can it stop my period completely?
Stress can delay your period, but the good news is that stress shouldn’t completely stop your period (like, forever). If you’ve gone more than six weeks (the amount of time it takes to classify a period as fully “missed”) since your last period, it may be time to see a doctor and make sure everything is okay.
Can stress cause spotting?
Absolutely. That fight-or-flight response we mentioned above isn’t limited to just shutting your period down or delaying it for a few days. Stress can also cause spotting, aka when you kind of have a little blood coming out (you might notice it when you use the bathroom or wipe), but not enough for you to qualify as a full period. This often happens between periods, leading you to be like, “why is this happening 15 days early?”
Okay, you’re right, I’ve been under a ton of pressure lately. How do I fix my period cycle so that stress doesn’t impact it anymore?
As great as it would be if there were a way to communicate to your body, “Hey, I’m done worrying, you can make my period normal again!” it’s easier said than done. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself to do things you like and enjoy. Yes, doing you might just be exactly what your body (including your entire reproductive systems and menstrual cycle) need right now.
And if worrying about whether your period is late or not is the number one thing that’s bothering you and keeping you up at night, it might be worth it to book an appointment to see the doctor. Ugh yes, you might have to call on the phone and make an appointment, but the peace of mind you’ll feel afterwards if you are able to find a cause and remedy it (or at least be soothed by your doctor and told “It’s no big deal” from someone with a fancy degree) may be worth it.
What are some possible other reasons behind my irregular period? What are some common late period causes besides stress?
There are a lot of factors besides stress that can impact your menstrual cycle and cause a delayed or late period, like pregnancy, birth control (both starting or stopping birth control can shift your system out of whack for a bit), menopause, weight loss, and too much exercise. Hormone changes could also be a cause of why your period is late that you’d wanna chat over with your doctor.