How Burnout Affects Your Periods

Feb 10, 2021

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND

NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR

Burnout can affect a variety of things from your ability to handle change, your mood and yes, even your periods. From causing you to skip a period to doubling up on a period (like having two periods in one month – ugh!), to impacting your flow; that work-related stress can wreck havoc in a variety of different areas.

As the the Canadian Medical Association reports, the average menstrual cycle is around 28 days long. However, it is possible to have a slightly shorter or longer cycle, ranging from between 21 to 40 days. A lot of people experience irregularities that can delay or prolong their period. And burnout can be one of the causes.

The usual cause is infrequent periods, and in times of extreme external stress, your periods could stop all together. One of the reasons for this is that menstrual cycles are regulated by a complex relationship between the higher centres of the brain and the ovaries that produce oestrogen and progesterone. Stress, burnout, anxiety, and traumatic events can all upset the hormonal balance in our bodies, causing the brain to send signals to the ovaries to go to sleep. The primary hormone at fault? Our body’s stress hormone, cortisol, that has the ability to suppress reproductive hormones. When levels of estrogen and progesterone are abnormal, menstrual irregularities are a potential occurrence.

Studies examining the effects of work-related stress on the menstrual cycle go back decades. In 1999, a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health found a link between longer cycles and work stress in nurses. Those who were “assigned to high-stress units” and those who reported high stress levels or “strenuous work activity” had an increased risk of a long cycle.

Fancy that.

As well as those dealing with a stressful job, many people who are in stressful personal situations or who have trouble sleeping, a previous history (or current) or an eating disorder or inconsistent nutrition patterns can also be prone to period-related irregularities.

But thanks to an increasingly pressurized world, burnout is something that needs more attention. Thankfully, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently included it in the International Classification of Diseases. Classifying it as an “occupational phenomenon” rather than a medical condition, it is described as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

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