It’s a wonderful time of year but instead of feeling gratitude, love, and peace, we often feel the pressures and stress of the holidays. The holidays this year may feel extra stressful because of how difficult this year has been for many of us. Stress directly affects our sex hormones so it’s important that we take steps to manage our stress in order to keep our hormone levels healthy and to have healthy periods. Keyword: manage! There are some stressors that we just can’t get rid of, so we have to learn to manage them well in order to be healthy.
Stress and the Hypothalamus
Stress directly affects the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a little gland in the brain that communicates with our pituitary gland (also in the brain). The pituitary gland secretes hormones that then communicate with our ovaries. The ovaries are the ones that produce the hormones that help us to ovulate and have healthy periods. Each system is connected!
When stress is attacking our body, it bathes our hypothalamus. Then when that hypothalamus communicates to our pituitary gland, it has a decreased signal. So, when the hypothalamus is stressed, it can’t talk as loudly to the pituitary gland as it would like to.
The pituitary gland secretes two hormones called luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. These hormones both then communicate with our ovaries and say “hey, make some really good follicles or eggs so you can help this lady to have a baby.” The hypothalamus doesn’t know the difference between whether you want to have a baby or not. To the hypothalamus gland, ovulation = having a baby.
When stress causes the signal to that pituitary gland to be decreased, the pituitary gland doesn’t produce much of those two hormones. That causes our ovaries to receive a decreased amount of those hormones and we cannot make adequate follicles. If we don’t make adequate follicles, we cannot ovulate. If we do not ovulate, we cannot have a healthy period because we don’t have enough progesterone and we also cannot get pregnant. It can also cause many other issues in our body that contribute to not feeling well overall.
Progesterone Can’t Be Produced Without Ovulation
In order to have a healthy period, you must fix your stress! Even if you aren’t trying to get pregnant, a healthy period is important. Progesterone is one of the hormones produced during your cycle and you won’t be able to produce progesterone without ovulating. I like to think of progesterone as a superhero of hormones because it can do a lot of really helpful things for our body.
Some of the things progesterone does:
- Decreases inflammation
- Builds muscle
- Promotes sleep
- Protects our heart arteries (decreases heart attack risk)
- Calms the nervous system
As you can see, it’s very important to have a healthy period, not just if you are trying to conceive. All of our systems are connected and intertwined and when our period is off, it affects the rest of the systems in our body.
Manage Your Stress!
I encourage you to just do whatever you have to do today in order to manage your stress…that will be the first step in helping you to have healthy periods! There are many ways you can manage your stress. We have shared many different techniques and tips on our blog and social media accounts. Start with this article on managing your cortisol as it includes many different techniques you can try.
If you are having trouble managing stress and its many ill effects, I would like to help you get back to your best self! Schedule a Discovery Call to see if we would be a good fit to work together.
Susan Julian, NP, IFMCP