Don't Forget Your Menstrual Cycle During the Quarantine

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Changes in your usual routine from being at home can have a direct impact on your mood which generates stress, and this, in turn, can alter your menstrual cycle, so it is very important not to lose sight of it during quarantine.

We talked with Alejandra Contreras, a gynecologist at Saba®, to learn how to identify and counteract any alteration in your period caused by stress.

What is stress and how does it affect my menstrual cycle?

Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to physical, cultural, emotional, or psychological changes. These are the types of stressors that can affect your health, including your menstrual cycle.

The hormones in the ovaries follow instructions from the pituitary gland, located in the brain. This is why what happens in the nervous system influences our menstrual cycle. 

Alejandra Contreras, highlights four changes that can present themselves as a result of stress:

1. Delay - Remember that the regular menstrual cycle is an average of 28 to 30 days long, but can range between 21 and 35 days, while the period lasts between 3 to 7 days. When the menstrual flow starts after that time range, it is considered delayed.

2. Amenorrhea - In very extreme cases, many women notice that their menstruation disappears completely for one or more cycles.

3. Variation - The amount of flow can also change due to stress. It can increase or decrease the bleeding.

 4. Bleeding between periods - This is known as bleeding that occurs outside of menstruation and is usually less severe, lasting two to four days at most.

The effect of stress on the menstrual cycle is due to the fact that it produces hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that can affect our bodies in various ways. The first - adrenaline - gives us more energy, while the second - cortisol - increases brain function and decreases (or stops) functions that are not considered essential.

For this reason, when the body produces excess cortisol, the brain identifies reproductive functions - like the menstrual cycle - as unnecessary. Cortisol signals the brain to stop producing female hormones (estrogen and progesterone - both hormones are necessary to stimulate the menstrual cycle) so, without them, the period stops all together.

How to Identify Stress and Get Rid of It

Stress can manifest itself in different ways, but the most common ways include: tiredness and mood swings (mainly sadness, anger, or contentment), as well as a state of nervousness or prolonged hyperactivity, increased heart rate, cold like symptoms, headaches, and muscle pain.   

Alejandra Contreras helped us make a list of recommendations to help you reduce stress, so you can have a more comfortable period at home:

Get good rest - Sleeping at least eight hours a day will help keep you balanced during the day. You will feel more energy to complete your daily tasks. If you are one of those women who is working from home, we recommend that you take five-minute breaks every hour to avoid becoming overwhelmed and to release tension.

Warm bath - Before going to sleep, take a warm bath to decrease muscle tension.

Exercise - Do at least an hour of your favorite workout. Yoga, pilates, crossfit, or dance - you decide. You can find workout videos on the internet to stay active and fit. This will help you burn enough energy to fall asleep easily at night.

Meditate - Meditate during the day and before bed to relieve stress. Clearing your mind will also help you detect sources of stress that you can work on so you can feel better. Light some scented candles or turn on a scent diffuser to enhance the relaxation.

Tea - Drink tea in the morning and at night as a substitute for coffee. Remember that caffeine is an irritant and affects the nervous system.

Do things you like - Pick up that paint brush or read that book you put down months ago. Do your favorite activities and hobbies to help pass the time. Watching a movie, or video calling your loved ones, can make a big difference and drastically improve your mood.

Don't push yourself too much - Rest and take a break to be more productive throughout the day.

Eat healthy - Remember to eat a balanced diet full of protein, complex carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins and minerals. Avoid irritants to decrease the severity of cramps and sodium to prevent fluid retention.

 Listen to your body and keep track of your menstrual cycle! Consult your gynecologist if you notice you skipped your period for more than one cycle or have prolonged irregular periods.