As the world struggles to come to terms with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, our mental health has gone for a toss. Along with that, your menstrual cycles may also have been affected - you're locked indoors for days at a stretch, your sleep patterns have been adversely affected, you're probably not eating healthy and your physical activities have been reduced to a minimum.
In a global pandemic, it’s normal to be stressed. But prolonged periods of anxieties can throw our bodies out of sync. Stress manifests physically.
Heavy bleeding, delayed cycles and missed periods altogether - the COVID-19 lockdown is doing something weird to your monthly periods.
The Science and hormones behind your periods:
Your period and many of the symptoms that may come along with it don’t all originate in the ovaries or uterus. The brain actually controls this whole show. To be specific, the region in charge is the hypothalamus, which lies deep in the brain near the pituitary gland.
The hypothalamus controls the output of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which govern the menstrual cycle and are created in the pituitary gland.
In order for you to even have a period, FSH has to prompt ovarian follicles to cause eggs to ripen, and then LH has to prompt a follicle to release an egg from the ovary so it can travel into the fallopian tube for potential fertilization. The ovary then starts to make another hormone called progesterone, which thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare for pregnancy.
If you don’t get pregnant, your progesterone levels fall, which allows your uterine lining to slough off, creating the monthly periods.
How stress is affecting your hormones:
Stress affects the amount of cortisol produced by our body. Cortisol is also known as a stress hormone and it is one of the main regulators of our entire hormonal axis. So if we are stressed, more cortisol is being produced which in turn suppresses our normal reproductive hormones.
Along with cortisol, it alters the hypothalamic-pituitary axis controlling the gonadal hormones, which could further aggravate menstrual cramp and even cause heavy bleeding when you do get periods.
Stress is bound to cause hormonal imbalance and even PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) in women. If you had been borderline PCOS all along, this stress induced by the pandemic might push you over to the other side.
Stress can increase insulin imbalance in the body which leads to the secretion of the leptin hormone. For women who would earlier get their periods in 30 days, their cycles might now be delayed by 7-8 days or even more. This is called Oligomenorrhea.
Keep in mind that stress is most likely to be the culprit of any changes to your cycle, not the Coronavirus.
Ways to cope up with stress and irregular periods:
Sleep cycle and the normal circadian rhythm is very much essential for the body to regulate its cortisol activity.
Healthy diet and avoiding food rich it fat could help keep a tab on hormone activity in the body.
For those with severe hormonal imbalance and stress-induced PCOS, partaking in yoga and exercises, especially abdominal exercises could be beneficial.
The one key factor in reducing stress levels is coming to terms with the fact that the current situation, where all of India is locked down, is not in anyone's hands and working on oneself is really the best way to deal with it.
If you’re feeling mentally impacted by the Coronavirus news, the best thing to do is to focus on yourself and practice some self-care. This can look different for everyone, but some suggestions are:
• Continue to regularly take your prescriptions and/or supplements.
It is of point to note that over 90 clinical trials have proved that Myoinositol supplements can regularize your periods. But remember 4g/day is the ideal dosage.
• It might be hard to access your normal healthy foods during social isolation. Still, try not to eat too many junk foods.
• Revisit an old hobby or crafting
• Fix some things around the house
• Find an indoor workout routine that you like
• Maintain your usual sleep schedule
• Enjoy hot showers and baths if you can
• Monitor your media intake
Instead of staying glued to the latest COVID-19 updates, allow yourself to check the news at certain times of day. Try to fit some stretching and deep breathing into each day. If you live with partners, roommates, or family, take this time to connect and nurture your relationships. Check in with friends and neighbors over phone or video—your virtual companionship might help someone cope and help you feel connected.
To be honest, it is really difficult to stay calm during such tense circumstances, with the threat of a pandemic hanging above our heads like a ticking time bomb. Yet, having a fixed routine for the day, exercising, eating healthy and just trying to take it easy may just trick your bodies into believing things are normal, thereby reducing stress levels as much as possible.
Love, Team She