Health & Wellness

Stress caused by the pandemic really messed up people’s periods, a study shows.

At this point in the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is no secret that living through a public health crisis has increased our stress levels. But the stress caused by the pandemic could be hurting more than just our mental health.

A new study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology has found a link between stress caused by a pandemic and changes in people’s periods. For the study, researchers looked at what 354 cisgender women ages 18–45 said about themselves. In May 2021, participants were asked how stressed they were about the pandemic and if their periods had changed since March 2020, when COVID-19 hit the United States.

More than half of the women who answered the survey said they had “at least one” irregularity with their cycle length, spotting, menstrual flow, or length of their period. Pandemic stress and cycle changes were more likely to happen to younger women and women who already had problems with their mental health. But high pandemic stress was “significantly linked” to both longer and shorter time periods.
Assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author Martina Anto-Ocrah told The Washington Post that she found the results “alarming.” After all, irregular periods are linked to a wide range of health problems, from problems with fertility to problems with mental health.

“This is about more than just periods; it’s about women’s health,” she said.

This is not the first report to say that the pandemic has changed people’s periods. In January of this year, an online survey of 210 cisgender women found a similar link between pandemic stress and periods that don’t come on time. And in September, a study paid for by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) confirmed that many people who got the COVID-19 vaccine had small, temporary changes to their periods.
People who have periods have been talking about changes to their periods since the pandemic started and the COVID-19 vaccine started to be given out. These studies just confirm worries that a lot of us have already had.

“People always tell women, ‘It’s all in your head,'” The Post was told by Anto-Ocrah. “Until we have data that proves what women think is true, the medical community doesn’t really take us seriously and doesn’t believe us.”

People, you heard it here first: Periods that don’t come on time are no joke. If you’re worried about changes to your period because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to keep track of your periods and talk to a doctor. You shouldn’t have to bring medical studies to back up what you know from your own life, but if you run into medical misogyny, these studies might help.