‘Shit pregnant.’ – That was my reaction when I didn’t get my period almost two years ago. It took six weeks and a panicky visit to my gynecologist to finally see red again. Of course I wasn’t pregnant, but my body was just incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. I was suffering menstrual cycle irregularity.
This summer it happened again. My period was three weeks late. This time there was no need to call my gynecologist in panic or pee on a small stick that told me “not pregnant” after two endless minutes. This time I knew why; I had even expected it. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one this year. But back to the beginning:
It just won’t flow
First things first, if your period stops and you do not know why, see your gynecologist. Inevitably you will still do one thing first: Googling. If you are looking for answers on the internet, you will definitely come across the word ‘amenorrhoea’ (besides pregnancy and menopause). With this beautiful clinical word there is even a division into primary and secondary amenorrhea. The former describes the absence of the menarche, i.e. the first bleeding, until the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhea is any absence of bleeding after the menarche that lasts longer than three months. Three months? In my case I was really lucky then. In addition, you will find all kinds of explanations ranging from breastfeeding, the influence of medication, weight fluctuations, and so on.
Stress can cause menstrual cycle irregularity
What always seems to appear somewhere at the end of this list is stress. Stops taking the birth control makes the list as well. However, because the entire time a womxn takes the pill, there is no real menstrual bleeding since there is no ovulation, this statement is pretty silly in my opinion. Roughly speaking, taking the pill is a drug-induced amenorrhea – but that is not what this is about. It’s about stress and how it inevitably affects our cycle. Stress affects the hypothalamus, which is responsible for hormone balance, among other things. So when we are stressed (consciously or unconsciously) due to grief, everyday stress, new life circumstances and other daily routines, future or other fears, lovesickness, psychological stress or similar things, it affects our hormone balance and ultimately our uterus and ovaries. The result: a menstrual cycle irregularity
Periods don’t stop for pandemics?
Fear of the future, new daily routines – does this sound familiar to you in 2020? Most likely. Due to the current situation, since mid-March at the latest, we have all been exposed to an unspeakable number of factors that put stress and psychological strain on us. We are not used to situations like this, neither is our cycle. By the way, those who are currently suffering from stress may not feel the effects until the next cycle or the one after that.
A study in Uganda actually found that 35 percent of those surveyed had experienced a change in their cycle and menstruation since the beginning of the pandemic. Five percent had no period at all. I’m not saying that we could compare our corona anxiety with that of the people in Uganda, but I do want to emphasize that these are not just a few isolated cases.
I am waiting for some kind of menstrual cycle irregularity
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have therefore only been waiting for my body to pull the safety net and say: Sorry, but under these circumstances I don’t trust you to carry a child. Because that’s what it means when your period stops due to stress and you are experiencing some form of menstrual cycle irregularity. The body doesn’t want to increase the risk of pregnancy with a fresh ovulation in the new cycle, because the brain is currently emitting an alarm.
The cycle as the sixth sense
For most people, their period is merely a guide to their fertility: pregnant. Not pregnant. Menopause. Boom. Done. Next chapter in the biology book. But it’s not that easy with your period. It is, as Franka Frei once explained to me in an interview, our additional vital parameter. Our sixth sense, so to speak. Our free monthly check-up to make sure our hormone levels are in balance. Its intensity, absence, color and duration can tell us so much about our physical and above all psychological condition, whether we want to admit it or not. Especially now it is more important than ever to pay attention to this and not to dismiss a missed period as unimportant.
When you are experiencing menstrual cycle irregularity, there is a reason
‘Periods don’t stop for pandemics’ was one of many slogans in social networks this year, followed by many important actions. However, we should not forget: “Periods might stop during pandemics” – and that’s okay. It is a sign that we should always be able to understand, not only now but in the future. Periods never stop without a reason, but this reason does not always have to be a baby. There can be many reasons, some more worrying than others. However, if you can attribute the absence of your period to stress or big changes in your life, don’t ignore it or talk it down, but give your body the rest it demands.
Illustration by Magdalena Otterstedt / Kopfüber Design for Vulvani