Can Wedding Stress Affect Your Period?
Don't freak out! This is surprisingly normal.
As if your surmounting wedding-day to-do list isn't enough to keep you occupied—not to mention overwhelmed and at least a little stressed out—now you're noticing some odd changes with the one thing you're hoping to see arrive every month on time: your period. If you've started to notice that Aunt Flo is coming or going sooner or later than normal, or perhaps not coming at all, it's understandable that you'd be concerned. First and foremost: Don't freak out. Any type of stress can affect your period—and wedding stress is no exception. "Even small, daily stressors can increase the amount of adrenaline (fight-or-flight hormone, made by the adrenal glands) and cortisol (a stress hormone also produced in the adrenal glands in response to low sugar levels and increased stress) in your body," explains Rebecca Levy-Gantt, M.D., OB/GYN at Premier ObGyn Napa Inc. "When these hormones are produced in higher-than-normal amounts, they can disrupt the hormones that create the regular menstrual cycle, causing prolonged bleeding, skipping of periods, or unusually heavy or irregular bleeding around these stressful times."
The most common way wedding stress can affect your period is by skipping periods. "If your brain isn't releasing the hormones necessary to regulate your cycle, then your ovaries won't get the message either!" says Briana Livingston, M.D., OB/GYN at MemorialCare Medical Group in Long Beach, California. Naturally, this can create even more stress (cue late-night visits to your local pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test) that worsen the problem. "When you skip your period for multiple months this is called amenorrhea," she explains.
Stress can also lengthen your cycle, leaving you to question why your periods are now six to eight days instead of the usual four to six. "Pre-wedding planning, you may have been the girl who always has her period at the same time every month, but stress can cause an imbalance in hormones that makes your period come every five or six weeks instead of your usual four," says Dr. Livingston. The technical term for this is oligomenorrhea.
Because emotional and physical stress is quite common in the months leading up to the wedding, many brides to be choose to regulate their cycles with an oral contraceptive pill so that they don't get any "surprises" on the big day, explains Anate Brauer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Greenwich Fertility and IVF Centers. With that said, she recommends against starting a new medication too close to an important life event so as to avoid any undesirable side effects. And, of course, always talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of starting such treatment.
Fortunately, as wedding planning comes to a close and you begin to embrace the usually-quieter newlywed life, your period will most likely resume its regular schedule without any long lasting effects on your cycle or your fertility. "If it doesn't, however, and you continue to skip periods or have irregular cycles for more than three months then this is something you should definitely talk about with your gynecologist," says Dr. Livingston. "Although planning a wedding is stressful, if the stress is severe enough to change the regularity of your menstrual cycle, you may want to think of creative ways to reduce this stress and make the process more enjoyable—which is the point right?"