We’ve been doing our best to stay positive since the pandemic started. Lockdowns, changes in family, work, and social life, combined with the threat of contracting coronavirus has definitely had us feeling more stress than normal.
Like you, we didn’t see this coming. Since medical experts are still trying to decide the specifics of what is and is not related to the pandemic, it can be hard to determine whether a change in your cycle is related to COVID-19, or something else.
If your monthly cycle has changed since the pandemic started, you aren’t alone. Many women have reported changes to their cycles after having COVID-19, while some believe they’ve experienced a change without having ever been sick with the virus.
Is it possible COVID-19 is affecting your menstrual cycle? Maybe.
Let’s talk about what your monthly cycle is, causes of change, and when you should see a doctor.
What Does a Normal Monthly Cycle Look Like?
A normal monthly cycle is roughly 28 days long. From the first day of your period to the first day of your next month’s period is one complete cycle.
During your monthly cycle, your body goes through four different phases:
Menstruation. This is the portion of your monthly cycle when you have your period. It lasts between five to eight days on average.
Follicular phase. During this phase, your body releases hormones that cause your ovaries to create tiny follicles that will eventually hold your eggs. This phase lasts from the first day of menstruation until the day of ovulation (usually about a week to ten after your period).
Ovulation. This is the phase when a single egg is released from one of your ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube to your uterus. This happens about two weeks before your next period.
- Luteal phase. During the luteal phase, hormones create a thicker lining in your uterus. If the egg is fertilized, the thick lining of the uterus will provide an easy place for the fertilized egg to attach. If not, the lining is shed, creating your next period.
This entire process happens every 28 days on average, although your own cycle may vary. Some women have a very consistent cycle, while others seem to have a cycle that is ever-changing. Most of the time, your cycle will remain one to two days within its own normal range.
What if I Don’t Track My Cycle?
If you track your cycle, you’ll know if something is happening that is out of the ordinary. Starting your period three or more days later or earlier than normal, for instance, will be noticeable.
If you don’t track your cycle, you can look for other symptoms that could be changing with your period, which we’ll discuss below.
Being on hormonal birth control can also help you determine whether or not your cycle is consistent. Hormonal birth control is known for keeping your cycle extremely regular, so if you are experiencing new symptoms or a variation in the length of your period, that can be a noticeable change.
Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?
Because COVID-19 is still being studied to determine what it does and does not affect, it’s too early to tell what kind of implications it has for your monthly cycle.
A study conducted in January of 2021 researched women of child-bearing age who had contracted COVID-19.
In the study, 25% of the participants reported changes in their menstrual cycles after having been diagnosed with COVID-19. These changes ranged from:
- Periods that were longer than normal;
- Flow that was heavier than normal; or
- Flow that was lighter than normal;
When the participants’s hormone levels were tested, there was no significant increase or decrease. Additionally, the participants that reported changes in their menstrual cycles also reported their cycles returning to normal within one to two months after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Research is still ongoing to determine the full impact of COVID-19 on the menstruating population. However, there are other pandemic-related reasons your period could be changing.
Stress and Your Period
Even if you haven’t had COVID-19, your life has been significantly impacted by it. Financial distress, job insecurity, homeschooling children, social disruption during lockdown, and fear of becoming ill have all placed a significant amount of stress on our bodies.
When we become stressed, it can affect our monthly cycles. Studies show stress has a major impact on our periods. In fact, it can even cause significant changes.
Your period is regulated by your hypothalamus, which is a very sensitive part of your brain. Your hypothalamus releases specific chemicals that trigger your pituitary gland to release hormones. These hormones then send the message to your ovaries that it’s time to start your period.
When you are under a significant amount of stress, your body produces cortisol, which crashes the hypothalamus/pituitary/ovary party and can cause you to even skip a period.
For this reason, you may have noticed differences in your period since the onset of the pandemic. Even changes that don’t involve missed periods can happen due to stress.
Whether you feel as though you’ve been affected heavily by COVID-19 or not, you are likely experiencing higher stress levels than your body is used to, and that can have an impact on your monthly cycle.
What Are Some Changes to Look For?
Most of the time, you’ll notice when there’s a major change with your monthly cycle. Even if you aren’t entirely sure about the beginning and end date of your period, you’ll know if you’re extremely late or early.
Other changes can include:
- Heavier flow than normal. Last month you only needed regular tampons and this month you can’t seem to use a super for more than an hour. This kind of difference in flow can leave you shaking your head and wondering what’s going on with your body.
- Lighter flow than normal. Are you having your period, or are you just spotting? You’re definitely not complaining about a lighter than normal flow, but it’s not the way your body usually operates.
- Cramping (more than usual). You’ve had your fair share of cramps, but these seem out of the ordinary. Alternatively, if you normally have bad cramps and aren’t experiencing them like you usually do, that can be a significant change.
- Worsening PMS symptoms. Feeling less like yourself before your period starts is normal, but if you feel moodier or more emotional before your period, it could be a change related to stress.
These are some notable changes you might experience, but there are always other changes that can take place. The best way to keep track of any significant changes with your period is to track your cycle and be mindful of how you are feeling.
When to See a Doctor
It goes without saying some changes in your menstrual cycle need to be evaluated by your doctor. Most of the time, a change in your cycle is nothing to worry about, and you’ll likely notice everything goes back to normal in one to two months.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, however, contact your doctor for an appointment.
- Frequent periods (more than one in less than 24 days).
- Heavy flow for longer than 7 days. It can be normal to have bleeding longer than 7 days, but usually it will just consist of mild spotting.
- More than two months without a period. You could be pregnant, and if not, there’s definitely a reason why you aren’t menstruating.
- Heavy bleeding that requires you to change a very absorbent tampon more than once per hour.
- Blood clots. Some blood clotting is normal, but clots that are larger than a quarter or an excessive amount of clots during your period can be a sign of something else.
- Extreme discomfort with your period or before that causes you to miss work or social events.
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your doctor and make sure there are no underlying issues.
How to Practice Self Care During Period Changes
When you experience a change in your period, the best thing you can do is be patient with your body and practice self care. We’re all extending a bit more grace with one another during the pandemic, and giving ourselves grace should be a priority as well.
Make sure you have all of Rael’s comforting, holistic period care items ready to go at a moment’s notice. From heating patches to help you ease the discomfort of cramping to the very best in protective period care items, we’ve got what you need to navigate changing periods during the pandemic.
The best part? We can ship them directly to your door, so you never even have to leave your house.
Research is still ongoing to determine how COVID-19 affects our periods, but pandemic related stress can cause changes in your cycle. Most of the time, a change in your period is nothing to worry about, but if you have prolonged symptoms, you’ll need to see your doctor.
No matter what your monthly cycle brings you, Rael has the products to keep you feeling comfortable and confident all month long, even during a global pandemic.