Stress is an underlying cause of up to 60% of illnesses and disease according to the American Institute of Stress. In addition to being associated with general health conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure, stress can also negatively impact a woman’s reproductive health and wellness. To help explain, our board-certified gynecologists are here to detail some of the ways chronic stress can affect a woman’s gynecological health.
Stress Can Affect the Menstrual Cycle
Chronic stress that builds up over time can alter the balance of hormones in the body, disrupting your normal menstruation cycle. The result may be an unpredictable cycle including periods that are irregularly heavy or light, late, or even missed entirely. In fact, women who work in overly-stressful jobs have a 50% higher risk of experiencing shortened menstrual cycles (less than 24 days) according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Stress Can Cause Fertility Problems
While the exact relationship between stress and fertility is still not completely clear, many reproductive health experts strongly believe that women with higher-than-normal levels of stress may have a more difficult time becoming pregnant. An increased level of alpha-amylase (an enzyme linked to stress) in the body has been linked to fertility issues for women.
Stress Can Decrease a Woman’s Sex Drive
Elevated hormone levels that you experience when you’re overstressed can also interfere with the hormones that orchestrate your sexual response. This can sometimes lead to a decreased sex drive. Additionally, high levels of stress can affect blood flow and lead to vaginal dryness, another vaginal health symptom that can make intercourse less satisfying or appealing.
Stress Can Lead to Vaginal Infections
The pH balance of the vagina can be delicate. High levels of stress can lower your immune system, throwing off the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the vagina. This increases your risk for common vaginal infections like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
It can be difficult to de-stress, especially when you consider that any of these reproductive health issues caused by stress can themselves create additional stress. With this in mind, try to think of ways in which you can help reduce stress in your life. We recommend getting regular exercise, finding time in your day to decompress and relax, and talking about your stress instead of letting it bubble under the surface. Your body will be glad you did. For more information on reproductive health or to request an appointment with board-certified gynecologist Dr. Kristine Gould, please contact Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett today. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more health tips, news, and info on our upcoming health and wellness events.