Are your periods normally regular, but then over the last few months during lockdown you have found them become less regular? A few of my friends have mentioned this, perplexed as to why their cycle has suddenly changed.
Changes in your body’s level of the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) can disrupt the normal pattern of your period (hence why young girls going through puberty and women approaching the menopause often have irregular periods). There are also lots of other things that can affect your cycle however, and some of these relate to our environment / lifestyle, so for me, it’s not that shocking that the change to our lives and emotions that lockdown bought about might have affected how regular our periods are.
Some common causes of irregular periods include:
- Having an IUD fitted
- Changing birth control method or using certain medications
- Too much exercise
- Dramatic weight gain or weight loss
- Overactive thyroid
- Underactive thyroid
- Thickening of the uterine lining
Some of these reasons are medical and obviously require seeing a doctor to get the correct treatment. Equally if you find your birth control has started to negatively affect your cycle it’s always worth speaking to the nurse or doctor about this as there might be a better alternative for you. But some of these changes, specifically over exercising, dramatic weight changes and stress are lifestyle related.
For instance some women find they have changes in their periods because they exercise too much. They may need to make workouts less intense, or exercise less often to combat this.
If stress is the problem, learning how to manage stress levels or remove the stressful situations from your life can help.
Extreme changes in your weight can affect your periods with weight gain making it harder for your body to ovulate whilst extreme, sudden weight loss can also lead to infrequent or irregular periods. It’s important to stress here that losing weight sensibly or gaining a few pounds is not likely to have a dramatic effect to your periods (hence using the word extreme!).
Beyond these well accepted reasons that our cycles can change there are other factors that have been recognised as affecting our cycle, syncing with other women we spend a lot of time with, changes to our alcohol intake / patterns, changes to our diet, inconsistent work schedules (working late / changes in pattern) and changes to our sleep pattern (getting less sleep, going to bed later for example).
When you think about how our lives have changed in lockdown it isn’t overly surprising that some of us have found our cycles a little disrupted – our normal routines have gone out the window. And with that you may have found your periods have change slightly as a result.
Because when you think about lockdown so many of the factors mentioned above will possibly have come into play for you.
Yes, gyms have been shut, but with many people either working from home or being on furlough / unable to go to work lots of people have had more time to exercise an so changes and potential dramatic increases to training will have been seen by many. Conversely some people (me included) will have found their activity levels dramatically drop (even with training every day) and that change itself could also affect your period regularity.
I don’t know many people who haven’t reported feeling stress and anxiety about the pandemic at some point, whether your worries centered around Covid itself or the economy or both I think we’ve all felt a greater degree of stress.
Many people will have seen a dietary change- some for the better, some maybe not. We are eating at home more but being indoors all day means we are more tempted by the fridge more often, therefore changes in diet and potential weight gain will not have been uncommon for many people in recent months.
Many people will also have increased their alcohol intake in lockdown, a mixture of it being cheaper to drink at home, having more time to drink etc. means that alcohol intake patterns will have changed (and increased) for some.
For the majority of people their working environment has changed, working from home, changes to hours and due to the challenges many businesses have faced many people are finding they are needing to work longer hours. Suddenly not bein able to work is equally a sudden dramatic change to routine.
If you live with other females, you have possibly spent more time with them over lockdown so may have found your cycle sync with them.
And finally sleep. We should theoretically have been able to sleep more – take away commuting, or work or social plans out of the house and early nights / lie ins should have been possible. In reality, I found, and most people I’ve spoken to have said similar, sleep has been disrupted. I’ve struggled to get to sleep until the early hours most nights and woken up frequently, which I put down to a mixture of worry and stress and also not being as active during the day meaning I find it harder to get ready to sleep. This has meant I’ve probably had a lower quality of sleep in lockdown!
So when you think about it, given the amount of changes to our lifestyle that could potentially affect how regular our periods are that we have found ourselves facing in recent months, it’s not shocking at all that many women have found their once regular cycle has maybe become less regular.
Is this something to worry about? Probably not, I track my cycle on the Fitbit app an have found that although I’ve had some changes, those changes appear to have settled me into a ‘new regular’ cycle. I anticipate that as things continue to change as lockdown lifts I might see some more changes as my routine changes (and stress levels will probably continue to remain quite high) but again I will keep an eye on those via tracking and I expect they will settle.
But I’d always encourage you to speak to a doctor if you are concerned. If the changes to your cycle are affecting your life, you continue to remain very irregular or anything seems out of the ordinary it’s always best to get yourself checked out.
If you have any of these symptoms it is generally advised you consult a doctor:
- You miss three or more periods a year.
- You get your period more often than every 21 days.
- You get your period less often than every 35 days.
- You are bleeding more heavily than usual during your period.
- You bleed for more than 7 days (I know this is not unusual for many women but if you have a sudden change in period length it is worth getting it checked out)
- You have more pain than usual during a period
All in all being aware of your cycle and changes to it is always a positive thing, as knowing your own body is the best way of being able to spot early on if something is wrong and understanding changes you might face can be helpful in that understanding of yourself.