HOW HAS LOCKDOWN AFFECTED YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
There’s no denying it, lockdown has affected us all, whether that be positively or negatively. Some of us are tearing our hair out wishing for freedom, whereas others are enjoying having no choice but to stay home and unwind. But the one thing we can all agree on is that our routines have changed significantly in the last couple of months.
But forcing yourself into a regular sleeping schedule may not be the only change you notice, especially if you’re one of half the population that menstruates. At the beginning of the lockdown “period”, the biggest challenge that women faced was whether or not they’d be lucky enough to buy sanitary products at all. But after a few months, women around the world have been reporting unusual changes to their menstrual cycle and the way in which they are dealing with their periods.
Irregular periods during lockdown
It’s no secret that a person’s menstrual cycle is sometimes a law unto itself. Irregular periods are certainly nothing new and countless women experience them on a regular (or irregular, as the case may be) basis. For some, it’s even become a necessity to turn to hormonal birth control to maintain a sense of routine with their own bodies.
However, more women than ever are coming forward to their doctors and gynecologists, expressing thoughts or concerns about their periods suddenly coming late or stopping altogether since they entered lockdown. One recent survey of over 5,000 women found that over 65% have noticed a disruption to their menstrual cycle.
This is because, while the menstrual cycle answers to mother nature, it is also responsive to our bodies, our emotions and our minds. Stress can be the enemy of a regular and healthy period, so it is no surprise that so many women are admitting to experiencing irregular periods right now during one of the most globally stressful times in recent memory.
However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and where some women are finding lockdown and the disruption to their routines stressful enough that it has altered their cycles, there are plenty of women out there who have been forced into a more relaxed lifestyle. In fact, some have even reported that since having to “slow down” during this experience, their periods have become regular for the very first time.
Cravings during lockdown
Stress is certainly not the only unwanted guest in many of our homes during lockdown. Whether you are currently out of work or not, your time spent away from your home will hopefully be significantly less than it was before. Unfortunately for those of us with a tendency to snack or eat our feelings, this also means that some unhealthy dietary changes may have snuck into our routines.
For those with periods, the cravings may be even more difficult to ignore when distractions are not as plentiful. And while cravings are a totally normal symptom of both PMS and menstruation, there is a correlation between the 16% of women who experience irregular periods and a greater disposition for cravings. Combine that with the fluctuating stress and hormone levels that are disrupting the menstrual cycles of more women than usual, and you have a recipe for a great deal of midnight snacking.
In addition to this, some people may not find their cravings as easy to indulge in as they did before. With many local and corner shops having closed their doors or implemented limited opening hours during the lockdown, it may be more difficult for some to get their hands on those sugary treats in the heat of the moment. So if you have to wait until your weekly shop to satisfy that urge to snack, make sure you stock up on your favourites for the following month.
Exercising on your period during lockdown
If there’s one thing many of us will be guilty of, it’s the noticeable drop in steps on our smartphones and watches since lockdown began. With gyms closing and public spaces difficult to navigate whilst social distancing in the more populated areas of the country, finding the opportunities for movement have not always been easy. Coupled with a general lack of motivation due to stress and it’s no surprise that some of us have taken more to the couch potato life than we would care to admit.
However, as previously established, fluctuations in your physical condition and especially in exercise can have an impact on how you experience your menstrual cycle. The right kind of exercise has long been known to help reduce period pain in both the long and short term, help make your menstrual cycle more regular and reduce the symptoms of PMS.
If you’ve found yourself living a more sedentary lifestyle since lockdown, even doing mild forms of exercises at home can help if you feel like you’re in need of some of those natural endorphins or that getting your blood pumping will lift your mood. If your living space is small, then it might be worth looking into exercises that don’t require a lot of movement, such as yoga. Not only can they help to relax your body during your menstrual cycle, but also take away some of that mental tension you may be feeling during lockdown too.
In the end, it can be unsettling and confusing getting used to a completely different lifestyle, even a short-term one. And considering that the menstrual cycle can respond to even the most seemingly insignificant of changes to your body, your diet, your sleep pattern and even your stress levels, then it’s to be expected that things may feel a little different for a while.
Of course, it is always advisable that you consult your doctor if there are any concerns that you may have to do with your menstrual cycle. But if you’re feeling out of sorts, or your period just seems to be that little bit more difficult than it usually is, then remember to be kind to yourself. We’re all going through tremendous upheaval and the best thing to do sometimes is to just sit back and go with the “flow”.
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