How Burnout Can Impact Your Uterus

Jun 13, 2021

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND

Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND


Stress can act as a natural contraceptive.

This is not to worry you, and definitely not to stress you out. But it is important to know where your system is sitting when it comes to proper development of your uterine lining. Why? Because chronic stress can not only impact the development of your uterine lining by making it thinner, it can also cause an increase in the development of your uterine lining – causing heavy flow and cramps.



The major stress hormone, cortisol, is derived from pregnenolone, the primary source of the reproductive hormone progesterone. Cortisol is like a long-term form of adrenaline, produced in the adrenal gland when the body is under pressure. Many people can suffer from an over response of this cortisol creation, deemed HPA Axis Dysfunction, due to pushing their limits for too long.

In particular, for women, the interaction between estrogen and progesterone helps to develop a thick and well fed (aka good blood flow) uterine lining. Perfect for protecting against cancer, growths, and even the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The main uterine lining is laid down by progesterone after we ovulation. Now, thanks to our article from a few weeks ago we know how stress affects ovulation, so we can now add an extra layer to that information. If we don’t ovulate, we don’t produce progesterone. Which means our uterine lining becomes thin.

What’s that look like? Wearing a light pad for a full day, changing a regular tampon 3x./day, having a very very light pink flow.

But this main uterine lining we think about isn’t actually the most important. The base layer is actually controlled by estrogen; and that happens in the first half of our cycle.

Think of this layer as the foundation. A good foundation makes everything easier to build upon. We now know, thanks to research in 2018, that a chronic stress response can influence the estrogen receptor sensitivity in the uterus. This research, studying the effects of cortisol on endometrial cancers, showed that cortisol, working together with estrogen, was creating a more aggressive cancer growth.

Now, everyone has changing levels of estrogen and cortisol in their bodies, so it isn’t just increased stress that exacerbates endometrial cancer, but the way the cortisol affects cancer cells in the uterus.

What’s a uterine lining that’s affected by stress in this way look like? It’s clotty, it’s sludgy, it’s a little more dark, and can sometimes even be brown. It almost feels dry in a way, and the cramps – those are strong.

What we can start to understand from this research is that there is a middle ground when it comes to your uterine lining. Too thin, and too thick, both of concerns of their own. Understanding how your uterus adapts to the stressors your body is facing is a great way to understand your capacity to handle stress. Data is everything – and once you have data, you can create a plan to feel better.


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