Anxiety and depression can be the cause of several problems. One of the problems they can cause in women is irregular periods or missed periods. An irregular period is more than just inconvenience. It can indicate other health issues. So act to get the periods regulated. Sr. Gynaecologist & Obstetrician, Apollo Cradle Royale, Dr Prof Sadhana Kala, shares how depression and anxiety are responsible for irregular periods and how it affects women’s health if left untreated for long.
Stress makes periods irregular because it disrupts ovulation and periods; it can potentially cause spotting an early period, or a period that looks or feels different than your norm (in consistency, colour, length, or symptoms like cramping); it can cause you to miss your physiological periods, that is, you bleed late and without ovulation.
Stress can also cause amenorrhea, that is, complete stoppage of periods or heavy bleeding that may lead to anaemia; or decrease in oestrogen level, which may result in enough bone loss to result in a risk of osteoporosis.
Stress affects all aspects of life: physical health, ability to think, behaviour and emotions. It affects different people differently and therefore, the symptoms may be vague and often similar to those caused by medical conditions. Stress causes low energy, headaches, body aches, tense muscles, chest pain, rapid heartbeat and insomnia.
It also causes mood-swings, inability to relax, low-self esteem, avoiding other people, constant worrying, forgetfulness, being pessimistic and inability to focus; increased use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, nervous behaviour such as nail biting, fidgeting, pacing and procrastinating.
Long term stress can cause depression, anxiety, personality disorder, heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, stroke, obesity and eating disorder and several other health problems.
Stress is not a medical diagnosis and does not, therefore, have a specific treatment. But a few lifestyle changes and alternative therapies can help reduce stress. Medications like sleeping pills, minor tranquilisers and antidepressants help. And medicines may be needed to cope with physical symptoms of stress, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or high blood pressure. But never start on medicines without the doctor’s advice.
To regulate irregular periods caused by stress, counter the stress. Lifestyle change can work wonders. Have a nutrient-rich diet with proper micronutrients. It will increase energy, help digestion, boost metabolism, detoxify the system and help loss of weight.
Take Omega-3 fatty acids supplements and reduce caffeine and alcohol. Lemon balm, ashwagandha, green tea, valerian and kava-kava have also been shown to help. Some supplements can have side effects or can interact with medications, so consult your doctor before starting the supplements.
Practice deep-breathing. Exercise -walk, jog, cycle, swim, anything that you enjoy doing. Spend time with nature, for example, by exercising or doing other outdoor activities in nature. This is called Ecotherapy. Complementary and alternative therapies like Yoga and meditation, massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, botanical medicines, listening to soothing music and spending time with friends and family and pets that act as social therapy, have also been shown to help.
Sometimes birth control pills can be used as a temporary treatment to regulate menstrual flow and to produce estrogen. Once the situation becomes clear, and healing occurs, the pills will be stopped. Do not ignore irregular menstruation. It may indicate more serious health problems. Listen to your body. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. And consult your doctor.