Increased stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic led to irregular menstrual cycles in women and people who menstruate, according to new research.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Women’s Health, researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, United States, have revealed that people who experienced higher levels of stress during the past year-and-half were more likely to have experienced heavier menstrual bleeding, as well as a longer period than usual.
For the past year-and-half, several reports of people who menstruate struggling with changes in their menstrual cycles have surfaced. These changes include prolonged duration of the period, heavier flow, increased pain, and sometimes delayed periods.
Previous research has shown that people with anxiety and depression, as well as people who face acute stressors such as natural disasters, experience irregularities in their menstrual cycles. Experts say menstrual changes could lead to mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and depression in those individuals. The new paper is the first to evaluate the impact of anxiety and stress on people’s menstrual cycles.
“We know added stress can negatively impact our overall health and well-being, but for women and people who menstruate, stress can also disrupt normal menstrual cycle patterns and overall reproductive health,” said Nicole Woitowich, lead author of the paper, and an assistant professor at Feinberg School of Medicine.
As countries around the world started to vaccinate their populations, people took to social media to report changes in their menstrual cycles. Vaccine hesitancy in parts of the U.K and Europe has been attributed to these changes. However, the impact of most Covid-19 vaccines on people’s menstrual health is yet to be assessed.
“Reproductive health should not be ignored in the context of COVID-19,” Woitowich said. “We are already seeing the ripple effects of what happens when we fail to consider this important facet of women’s health as many are now experiencing menstrual cycle irregularities as a result of the COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 infection.”
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