When Namita Mishra—35 years of age—didn’t begin her period on the scheduled date, she was haunted by three primary concerns—"Am I pregnant?", "Am I pre-menopausal?" or "Is the WFH stress getting to me?"
When she discussed her uncertainty with her colleague, she realised that she wasn't the only one facing such an issue. A bunch of her female co-workers were also experiencing unpredictable menstrual cycles ever since the beginning of work from home. She happened to find solace on the internet as she dug and found out that many women have either been skipping their periods, are undergoing menstrual irregularities, or are experiencing increased/decreased blood volume. A phone call to her gynecologist confirmed her doubts.
It's no news that the ongoing global pandemic and work from home protocols have upended our normal way of living, consequently contributing to heightened stress and anxiety levels. And, most of us are also aware about the impact of stress on our menstrual cycle. Such sudden, unprecedented changes in our lives have given way to absolute havoc—along with alterations in work schedules, sleep patterns, dietary habits and exercise routines.
"While most people assume that the regulation of your periods is associated with your uterus. It is, in fact, managed by the happenings in your brain, as put forth by gynecologists across the globe," suggests Dr Manju Gupta, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospital. "Medically speaking, the secret resides within the hypothalamus—the portion of your brain which oversees the workings of the pituitary gland and controls the release of different hormones, some of which trigger the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare your body for pregnancy. However, if your egg doesn't get fertilised, the hormone levels drop and the lining of the uterus sheds, leading to periods," she explains.
Dr Manju informs us that regular ovulatory control may be hampered due to several reasons. Since it’s an intricate setup, any stress or adaptation to lifestyle change can play a crucial role in determining the ovulation cycle. From starting a new Vitamin, herbal supplement or medication to taking your birth control pill at a different time each day, any slight variation can disrupt your cycle. Besides, many women have either lost or gained weight while working remotely, and either extreme can impact ones hormones and menstrual pattern.
Here are a few of the many factors that can be held responsible for menstrual cycle changes:
Lack of a Balanced, Nutritious Diet
If you’ve been relying on junk food as your midnight munchie and haven't been consuming timely balanced meals, your body stress levels may get aggravated. According to Dr Manju, an anti-inflammatory and plant-based diet is essential to promote a regular menstrual cycle. However, this in no way suggests that your diet must be entirely meat-free. The trick is—fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with whole grains and a quarter with healthy sources of protein including seafood, eggs and cottage cheese.
Skipping Your Daily Dose of Physical Activity
Are the early morning Zoom calls and late night OTT binges having you compromise on your workout? While you may believe that overdoing your exercise can benefit your period cycle, in reality, if your body fat becomes way too low, your cycle may get seriously hampered. "Extremely rigorous forms of workout such as marathon running should be avoided since low body fat cannot induce ovulation. However, you mustn't live a sedentary lifestyle either. For overall health, moderate and consistent exercise is essential," recommends Dr Manju.
Smoking and Other Addictive Habits
If increased stress and anxiety is making you turn to smoking for relief, reevaluate your lifestyle choices. Your body’s estrogen and progesterone levels get disturbed by smoke, further leading to irregularities in your menstrual cycle, along with making your PMS more severe.
Lack of Sound Sleep
Sleep is the most taken-for-granted thing, often first compromised and shouldn't be. Melatonin—a hormone known for inducing sleep—also happens to be responsible for your periods. If your remote working patterns and hectic deadlines are making you an insomniac, there are chances that you may experience an early or late period as well. To help solve the issue, bid adieu to all your electronic gadgets at least an hour prior to hitting the bed. If you still seem to struggle to attain a sound, 8-hour sleep, consult a professional who may suggest medical intervention.