According to a new University of Pittsburgh study published today, women with high stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic are twice as likely to have a menstrual cycle change than women with low stress related to the pandemic. Obstetrics and gynecology.
Overall, more than half of the study participants reported changes in their menstrual cycle cycle length, duration of the menstrual cycle or increased bleeding, disorders that may have economic and health consequences for womenresearchers say.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, anecdotally, in conversations with friends and other women, it came up anecdotally that ‘since the pandemic, my period has been kind of crazy,'” said lead author Martina Anta-Okra, PhD, MPH, MT (ASCP), assistant professor of general internal medicine of Medicine Pitt School of Medicine. “Stress can show up in women’s bodies as changes in menstrual function, and we know that the pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time for many people.”
Anto-Okra and her team designed a two-part survey that included a validated scale of COVID-19 stress and self-reported menstrual cycle changes between March 2020 and May 2021. To capture a diverse population that was representative of USA, the researchers worked with a market research company to recruit a geographically and racially representative group of participants to complete an online survey. They limited the sample to people between the ages of 18 and 45 who identified as female and were not taking hormonal birth control.
Of the 354 women who completed both parts of the survey, 10.5% reported severe stress.
After accounting for age, obesity, and other characteristics, the researchers found that women with high stress from COVID-19 were more likely to report changes in menstrual cycle length, length of periods, and spotting than their peers with low levels of stress. There was also a tendency towards heavier menstrual discharge in the high stress group, although this result was not statistically significant.
“During the pandemic, women’s roles have been redefined and as a society we have taken steps backwards in terms of gender equality,” Anto-Okra said. “Women often shoulder the burden of child care and household chores, and they have found a change in everyday activities and the risk of contracting COVID-19 more stress than men.”
About 12% of participants reported changes in all four features of the menstrual cycle, which the researchers called alarming.
“The menstrual cycle is an indicator of a woman’s overall well-being,” Anto-Okra said. “Violation in menstrual cycle and hormone fluctuations can affect fertility, mental health, cardiovascular disease, and other outcomes. Ultimately, these factors can also affect relationship dynamics, potentially increasing relationship strain.”
Longer, more frequent, or heavy periods can also hit women’s wallets with additional costs for feminine hygiene products.
“We know that the pandemic has had negative economic consequences for many people,” Anto-Okra said. “If changes in your flow during an economic crisis increase period-related costs, or the ‘tampon tax’, it’s a double whammy from an economic point of view.”
She hopes the study will inspire more research into COVID-19 stress and women’s health globally, including potential long-term effects on fertility, menopause and mental health.
Other authors who contributed to this study were: Tori Valachovich, BA, Kimberly Tiffany, BA, Lindsey DeSplinter, Kimberly Kaukainen, BA, J. Christopher Glanz, MD, MPH, and Stephanie Hollenbach, MD, MS, all of the University of Rochester; and Michael Chen, Ph.D., Nazareth College.
The link between stress from COVID-19 and menstrual changes, Obstetrics and gynecology (2022). DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000005010
University of Pittsburgh
Citation: Pandemic-related stress linked to changes in menstrual cycle (2022, October 27) Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-pandemic-related-stress-linked- menstrual.html
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