Stress can wreak havoc on your body. During Stress Awareness Month, we invite you to understand the specific ways stress affects your reproductive health, including your menstrual cycle, vaginal health and fertility.
Stress Affects Your Menstrual Cycle
Essentially, stress can cause you to experience irregular or skipped periods, painful cramps and elevated PMS. Here’s how.
When your body experiences stress, it releases cortisol. In turn, cortisol contributes to the amount of estrogen and progesterone your body produces. These two hormones are responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle, which will be out of whack if you’re stressed.
Your menstrual cramps can also become more painful when you’re stressed. Even experiencing stress at the beginning of your period this month can make cramps more painful during your period next month.
PMS symptoms like bloating and mood swings could worsen, too. Stress hormones can increase these symptoms and also increase your stress, creating a painful cycle.
Occasional menstrual cycle irregularities or painful cramps may not be a big deal. But you should take steps to manage stress and share any concerns with your doctor to rule out underlying medical causes.
Stress Affects Your Vaginal Health
The vagina is an amazing part of your reproductive system, but it’s delicate and sensitive. In fact, stress can change your vagina in two ways.
First, stress decreases your immune system, which in turn changes the pH balance in your vagina. You’re more susceptible to uncomfortable and itchy yeast infections when your immunity is low. You may also develop bacterial vaginosis, an infection that’s treatable only with antibiotics.
Second, your vagina may produce more discharge than normal when you’re stressed. Normally, discharge cleans your vagina, and its smell, color and texture can provide important clues about your reproductive health and function. However, hormonal changes caused by stress – and ovulation and pregnancy – changes the amount and type of discharge your body produces. These changes may be uncomfortable and troubling.
There is good news. Your doctor specializes in vaginal health. Discuss any changes and concerns at your next appointment, and learn how to protect your vagina.
Stress Affects Your Fertility
If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you want to remain as relaxed as possible. That’s because stress acts as a natural contraceptive and can even prevent ovulation. IVF treatments are also less successful when the potential mom is under stress.
Of course, your sex drive and desire decrease, too, when you’re stressed. The result is less interest in doing the very act that causes pregnancy.
Take steps to reduce and manage stress if you want to conceive a baby. Your doctor can offer additional tips that improve your fertility.
Manage Stress to Protect Your Reproductive Health
Many parts of your body work together in your reproductive system. Support your health and well-being as you reduce and manage stress.
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Get adequate sleep
- Meditate, do yoga or journal
- Surround yourself with supportive friends
- Engage in hobbies
- Volunteer and give back
- Set boundaries that protect your time and energy
Talk to Your Doctors
We also invite you to talk with your doctor. Learn more about your reproductive health and discover additional ways to handle stress every day. Contact Folsom OBG