If your period is late, if your menstruation is irregular, or if you're struggling to get pregnant, then you might find that the problem is caused by stress.
'Can stress delay your period?' is a common question posted on internet forums, both by women who are looking for a solution to their problems when trying to get pregnant and for women who are hoping for some explanation other than they're pregnant…
But how can stress delay your period? And how likely is that the cause of your irregularity?
When you get stressed, this can affect the part of the brain (called the hypothalamus) that is responsible for regulating hormones. Remember, stress is a result of hormonal changes and an increase in dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol and at the same time your brain will shut off the production of other hormones that work contrary to that.
The main point of stress is to prime your body to be in a condition that is optimal for survival. This means that you'll have more blood and oxygen sent to your muscles and your brain so that you can run, fight, dodge and focus – while other systems will be put on the back burner. Those other systems include digestion, immune function and ovulation.
Can stress delay your period? Yes. But does that mean it is? Not necessarily.
One thing that is key to remember here is that stress is a normal part of life (unfortunately). Most of us will regularly experience stress of some description and will nevertheless still ovulate on time. This means that you really need to be experiencing quite a lot of stress for it to get in the way of your period.
If stress is causing the problem, then you might be able to tell this by looking at your cervical mucus. Normally you should notice that your cervical wetness increases as you approach ovulation. However, if stress is causing issues then you may instead notice that the wetness increases in patches – some days it will be there and other days you will be dry. This can be imagined as being your body trying to ovulate but being hampered by the existing of stress which delays it.
Fortunately, in most cases stress will not be enough to prevent you from getting pregnant. It's possible – but it's unlikely. If you are having sex every two to three days during your cycle then you should find that you are able to get pregnant regardless of your stress.
What's worth bearing in mind here though is that stress does also reduce libido, meaning that you may find you are less interested in having sex as well.
For these reasons, if you are trying to get pregnant then identifying the causes of your stress and trying to eliminate them is always a good idea and can improve your chances of success.