It’s not surprising that women have been under increasing stress due to the pandemic. Stress can have various effects on your body including headaches, pain, trouble sleeping, or even changes in menstruation. Then adding trying to conceive to an already stressful time, makes it all the more difficult to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing.
COVID-19 Impact on Menstruation
A recent study published in the Journal of Women's Health covered the impact that COVID-19 stress has had on women's menstruation. Researchers found that since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 54% of women said that their menstrual cycle had changed in some way. It is believed that the participants who experienced increased stress over the last two years were more likely to experience changes to their period. According to lead and corresponding author research assistant professor Nicole Woitowich, “We know added stress can negatively impact our overall health and well-being, but for women and people who menstruate, stress can also disrupt normal menstrual cycle patterns and overall reproductive health.”
In addition, with women reporting changes in their menstrual cycles following the COVID-19 vaccine, new studies backed by funding from the National Institutes of Health are planning to examine any possible connections between vaccination and irregular menstruation.
Understand Your Body & Cycle
Your body is strong, beautiful, and incredibly individual. Therefore, take the time and steps to understand just how your mental health and menstrual cycle work together - and especially the role that stress can play. At OvuSense, we strive to help all women navigate learning about their bodies and what each unique cycle, ovulation, and pregnancy might look like. Being able to track your cycles and identify any irregularities is powerful knowledge and helpful when you decide the time is right to start a family.
In fact, 82% of women who use OvuSense say they feel less stressed and more in control of their fertility. Confirming when and that you are ovulating may provide a great sense of relief.
Tips to Reduce Stress from Some Experts
Stress is an ugly emotion and can take a toll on a person’s body. We know it may be difficult to reduce stress, especially within certain situations, so we want to try to help. Below, we’re sharing some helpful tips from experts on ways you can take care of your body and try to reduce stress.
Kate Davies, RN, BSc(Hons), FP Cert - Fertility Nurse: Recent research has shown how stress impacts our ability to conceive. I like to think of it as the ‘mind-body’ effect. Psychological factors really do impact and are dependent on our stress levels, ability to cope with stress, and even our positivity. I encourage my patients to consider how they deal with stress, what are their triggers for stress and help them to develop strategies for coping with and, where possible, eliminating stress. Not easy when you are stressed because you can’t get pregnant! Stress and fertility is a huge area to discuss and, like the other lifestyle factors, a blog post for another day.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: If you are trying to conceive and feel that your ‘mind-body’ effect is a little out of kilter then consider reflexology or yoga, or start recording your fertility journey so you can be reminded of the positive days and see that, as well as bad days, there is hope too.
Colette Assor, Registered Acupuncturist: Reduce Stress. Struggling to become pregnant certainly creates a mixture of difficult and challenging emotions, including anxiety, fear, and a poor mood -- the result of being on a long-term, emotional rollercoaster. Despite this, managing stress and anxiety is an important factor to consider when trying to conceive. Whilst it is not conclusive that stress directly impacts fertility, it is clear that high stress can impact hormonal balance, menstrual health, egg and sperm health, lifestyle, and wellbeing.
Colette’s Fertility Tip: You may wish to try some natural ways to reduce stress levels, including beginning your day with meditation, taking a walk in nature, and trying to cultivate gratitude by listing 10 things you are grateful for each day. Science also shows that gratitude helps to improve mood and overall well-being. Sharing your feelings with a friend, support group, or at one-to-one counseling may also be beneficial, as well as journaling your feelings.
Julia Young Nutrition: If your periods have been absent for three months or more it could be due to hypothalamic amenorrhea. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is when your periods stop for several months, due to a problem with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a major control center in your brain which sends out signals telling your body systems what to do. One of its many important roles is to control ovulation and reproduction.
There are a number of causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea including, low body weight or low percentage body fat, following a very low-fat diet or under-fueling, over-exercising, as well as stress. If any of these are going on, the hypothalamus may sense it is not getting enough energy and will try to shut things down to conserve energy. Your reproductive system is one of the systems it will shut down, as it is not essential for survival, leading to absent periods, anovulation, and subsequently impacting fertility.
Julia’s Fertility Tip: When we are continually stressed our body prioritizes survival and can shut down ovulation. Take stock and assess your stress levels and put in place measures to reduce stress, such as deep breathing, practicing meditation or mindfulness, yoga, going for a walk, or simply chatting to friends and family. It is important that you find time for yourself every day, even if it is just for ten minutes.
Taking the time to try to reduce your stresses can have a positive impact on not only your body but your ability to conceive. Reducing stress and making an investment to track your ovulation, with OvuSense sensors, is a way to take back control of your trying to conceive journey.
Starting a relationship with an OB-GYN that is right for you may also be a step to dramatically change your fertility journey, giving you an increased sense of hope. You might have to try out a few doctors before landing on the one you feel most comfortable with, but that’s okay, you have time! Like OvuSense, your doctor is there to help you with any questions or concerns you might have. Having your questions answered, or being able to confirm when you are ovulating, may help alleviate any sense of uncertainty.
Use code HEALTH25 for 25% off our fertility systems for World Mental Health Day (10/10/21), ending November 1st, 2021!