Pandemic stress affected women's periods, new study finds

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  • A new study investigated how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted women's menstrual cycles.
  • More than 200 women took part in the study.
  • More than 50% of the women reported changes in their periods because of pandemic-related stress.

A new study by Northwestern Medicine has found that US women experienced irregularities in their menstrual cycle because of increased stress during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research published in the Journal of Women's Health investigated the impact of Covid-19 pandemic-related stress on menstruating women.

Measuring stress

The researchers designed an online survey to capture self-reported information on menstrual cycle changes and perceived stress levels, distributed between July and August 2020.

The study enrolled 210 women between 18 and 45 years who completed the survey on how stress experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic influenced their menstrual cycles.

The survey had 23 sections that included demographics, menstrual cycle history, and self-reported stress levels before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. The participants filled out changes in time between menses; length of their menstrual cycle; period duration; and menstrual flow and spotting.

The questionnaire also included a perceived stress scale assessment to indicate retrospective pre-Covid and Covid stress levels. 

Irregular periods 

The study findings show that more than half of the women experienced one or more changes in their menstrual cycle during the pandemic. About 50% of the women reported seeing changes in their menstrual schedule, 34% said that the duration of their period changed, and half of the participants saw changes in premenstrual symptoms.

The study results show that women with high stress scores during the pandemic were more likely to report changes in the duration of their menses with one or more changes in menstrual bleeding (either heavier and lighter bleeding or spotting). 

"Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and its significant impact on mental health, these data are unsurprising and confirm many anecdotal reports in the popular press and on social media," lead author Dr Nicole Woitowich said in a press statement.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Is your cough Covid-related? Stellenbosch University researchers say there's a way to tell

READ | Covid-19: Looking ahead to the next wave - experts discuss vaccines, variants and lockdowns

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