‘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.
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

Periode verliebt, Menstruation around the world, Zyklusbewusstsein, Vorfreude auf erste Periode, Menstruationserfahrung, Periodendoku, Dokumentarfilm über die Periode, Periodentabu, Menstruationstabu, Katharina Vorndran, Vulvani
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Kath­ar­ina Vorndran is a tele­vi­sion journ­al­ist from Leipzig with a deep love for old cam­eras and the writ­ten word. On her blog she writes about everything that moves her - life, love and peri­ods. Her love for the female cycle goes as far as mak­ing a whole doc­u­ment­ary about it. When she's not try­ing to put the things that move her into words, she's a deeply relaxed yogi with a small wine problem.