Often, I see women who's menstrual cycles can suddenly become very long, or very short, who's PMS symptoms suddenly worsen or menstrual flow becomes much heavier or or lighter.
As much as we don't want to use 'stress' as the scapegoat for every ailment, when you see a rapid change to your cycle - stress is often the culprit.
One of the biggest issues is that so many women can't recognise when their stress levels are elevated. It's difficult to identify when stress has accumulated to a point where it causes physical and emotional symptoms.
Under stress, our adrenal cortex is stimulated to produce cortisol. While cortisol is often thought of simply as the “stress hormone,” it actually plays some other important roles – it helps us maintain our blood glucose, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and influences our blood pressure.
Cortisol production is fundamental for health and our ability to function under stress.
Eventually it catches up with us, and causes something called HPA dysfunction.
HPA dysfunction is where after periods of chronic and repeated stress, our system begins to respond poorly with prolonged cortisol peaks, and eventually it “burns out”, failing to respond to any signals to release cortisol.
When we look at stress and ovulation, chronic elevations in cortisol can inhibit GnRH production from the hypothalamus, which affects particularly LH secretion in the pituitary. So, what does this actually do?
Knowing this shines a whole new light on the fundamental importance of stress management, doesn't it.....So, how can you manage stress?
Firstly, you're going to need to be patient with yourself as you begin to create new habits and allow the time for your brain and adrenals to reset and re-balance. It took a long time to get to this point, and its not going to be resolved in a week or two
1. Prioritise sleep and rest
You would have heard this before, but the foundations of good sleep are so important in the way you perceive and respond to stress. Remember a time where you might have overreacted to something small and probably insignificant? Ensuring eight hours of sleep most nights will improve your stress response.
2. Choose food carefully
Reduce refined carbohydrates, the sweet sugary food and caffeine. What your body needs most now is regularly spaced meals with 4-5 veggies, a lean protein and some healthy fat. Meals like these provide the nutrients your adrenals need most - Magnesium, Zinc, vitamin C, and B complex vitamins.
3. Build a stress-busting, fertility boosting routine
Choose from a few of the proven stress reduction techniques my clients use to reduce cortisol and improve stress adaptation, and commit to practicing them daily.
The 4-7-8 breath technique
Free guided meditation or visualisation apps:
4. Using botanical adaptogens to reset and thrive
The first three steps outlined provide a foundation for improving adrenal health and cortisol production. In addition to this, carefully chosen adaptogenic herbs can be the cherry on top of your adrenal recovery. You'll enjoy faster results with herbs like Withania, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Rehmannia and Siberian Ginseng.
Stress can make such a big impact on your fertility journey, which is such a kicker because trying to conceive and not getting your positive has got to be one of the most stressful, overwhelming and exhausting times in our lives.
As one of Australia's most highly regarded natural fertility specialists, Natalie has been nurturing, guiding and supporting women to overcome their health challenges for well over two decades.