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Stress and the Menstrual Cycle: Can Stress Delay My Period?

While we might think of the menstrual cycle as a physical part of our health, just like the rest of our bodies, it can be affected by our environment and our state of mental well-being. In this post we’re going to take a look at stress and the menstrual cycle and what we can do to stay healthy in body and mind. Read on to find out how stress can affect ovulation, period and more.

Can stress delay my period?

There are a few things that can affect the regularity of your cycle and make your period late. A change in routine, a new diet or a stressful situation can all delay your period. While most of us are bound to experience irregular cycles from time to time, others can have frequent irregularities. Since all our bodies are different there is no normal, but keeping track of your cycle and logging when you get your period is a great way to tell if anything out of the ordinary is happening. 

If your period is late and you expect you might be pregnant, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test. If you’re pregnant, a positive test result should show around three weeks after unprotected sex, and potentially sooner depending on your fertile window and the sensitivity of the test. If the test shows a negative result, you can wait and take another pregnancy test. However, it’s perfectly possible that environmental changes such as a change in diet or added stress is causing a late period, as hormones are sensitive to stress and these will change throughout the menstrual cycle

Can stress stop ovulation?

It’s possible for stress to prevent ovulation. A menstrual cycle without ovulation is called an anovulatory cycle. Many of us will experience these during our fertile lifetimes, but you might not be aware you are having an anovulatory cycle unless you are tracking your ovulation. 

Just like a late period, anovulation can be a reaction to emotional or physical changes, like shifts in diet, exercise and stress levels. It’s considered to be the body’s natural way of preventing conception if the environment is not ideal for pregnancy. However, many women do manage to conceive during stressful periods, or when there are changes to their environment - we are all different so we will experience anovulatory cycles in different ways too! 

How to manage stress

Imagine a world without the stresses and strains of everyday life… It's a difficult place to imagine, right? Here at Natural Cycles, we’re realists and we know a little bit of stress is a regular part of our lives. While we can only control so much in our environments, what we can alter is the way we react and cope with stress. 

Whether working from home, commuting to the office or chilling on the weekend, there are a few things we can all do to make us feel a little more in control of our surroundings. Check out our top tips for combating stress.

Stick to your routine

Human beings are creatures of habit. Whether it’s visiting your favorite coffee shop at lunch, or going for a walk after work, there are a few habitual comforts we can adopt. If you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to your routine. Set a strict schedule and stick to it. Include lunch, coffee breaks and set uninterrupted work time, just as you would if you were in the office. While it might be tempting to lie in on the weekend, it can be beneficial to maintain a consistent sleep routine that will pay off in the long run.

Stay fresh

It might be a no brainer, but a morning shower is a truly refreshing way to start the day. When we’re lounging at home it can feel tempting to miss our ritual rinsing, but the mental clarity that comes with a wash is a great way to set us up for a productive and fulfilling day. Staying in our PJs might feel cosy, but in the long run, it keeps us in relax mode, it’s also more likely that we’ll decide against leaving the house… On that subject, we really recommend getting fresh air, whether it’s working near an open window or a stroll around your local park at lunch, fresh air does wonders for the body and mind. If you’re feeling active but are stuck indoors, there are plenty of gym or yoga classes available online. 

Listen to you

We want to help, but you know your own mind better than anyone. Take a minute every day to ask yourself how you are feeling, what you are grateful for and what you need from today. Keeping a journal or using a meditation app is a great way to exercise self-care and takes only a little time and effort. Many of us find energy in interacting with others and in the digital world we’re lucky friends and family are only a screen tap away. Others find alone time more reviving. Whatever kind of person you are, the most important thing we can say is: you do you.

Be realistic

When we set goals we are often ambitious, we want to strive for the best and that’s great, ambition is healthy. However, setting small attainable goals can be much more rewarding in the short term, so we urge you to be realistic during stressful times. Set a to-do-list at the start of the day with a list of small things you want to get done - you might just surprise yourself with your productivity! If you don’t get everything done, don’t be too hard on yourself, showing up is half the battle and there’s always tomorrow. Staying realistic and level headed in times of stress is easier said than done, but try to recognize your achievements, however small.

Keeping track of cycle symptoms

If you’re worried about how stress might affect your cycle and would like to track the changes in your body, Natural Cycles is FDA cleared birth control that can find and predict your ovulation. This means you will know your own unique fertile window. As well as keeping track of changes in your body, you can use Natural Cycles to plan or prevent pregnancy.

Natural Cycles works by tracking basal body temperature paired with an algorithm that learns the pattern of your unique cycle. The app also features trackers where you can log menstrual cycle symptoms. We have now also added Covid-19 symptom trackers for those who are wanting to monitor those specific symptoms. 

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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