We all have questions about our periods: what affects them, how do they affect us, and what, if anything, can disrupt our cycles? As you might have guessed, there are actually a whole host of things that can affect your menstrual cycle, ranging from the standard and mundane to the bizarre and unpredictable. You've probably wondered about how your birth control is affecting your cycle, but it's less likely you've asked this question: Can the weather affect your period?
Things like the weather may not necessarily affect your cycle, but there are a few more factors that can affect you down there than you'd initially think. It's not just birth control that has an impact on your menstrual health; there are many things that contribute to the consistency or inconsistency of your monthly cycle.
An abnormal period (whether that means it's shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter than usual) isn't necessarily cause to ring the alarm, though. Contrary to that standard 28-day trope a lot of us grow up upon, your menstrual cycle is a personal experience that can change slightly each month, depending on your levels of stress, your birth control, and more.
An altered menstrual cycle certainly isn't cause to freak out, but it is good to stay on top of what your definition of "normal" is for your body so that you're aware of the various stresses you might be putting upon yourself. Not many people are stoked to get their period, sure, but it's still an important indicator of overall bodily health, and should be respected in at least that regard.
Your menstrual cycle is personal, and so are the things that affect it. Here are eight weird and probably unexpected things that can potentially mess with your menstrual cycle.
If you've suddenly upped the intensity or length of your workouts, you might notice a change in your period for a month or two.
Exercise is, at its foundation, a stress on your body (albeit usually a good one), and can cause hormonal changes in your body, which in turn will affect your cycle. As long as you're healthy about your increased exercise, your cycle should adjust to your new routine pretty quickly.
Flus, viruses, or bacterial infections can all mess with your cycle in the same way that stress can, but only if you're not on hormonal birth control. What's more, antibiotics can cause some breakthrough bleeding earlier than you planned for, because of their potential effect on your estrogen levels.
Women who work in jobs that require odd-hour shifts (like nurses, for example) potentially put themselves at higher risk of miscarriage, hormonal disruption, and fertility struggles, according to a study by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
This is because shift work is likely to encourage sleep disruption and deprivation. If you work the night shift twice a week, you might notice the effects of this disruption within your menstrual cycle. If you do have these types of shifts at your job, consider using earplugs or blackout eye masks to help you fall asleep faster once you're back at home.
Cosmopolitan reported on a a study of over 100 American women living in a dorm together, the results of which revealed an evolutionary effect called socially mediated synchrony, which basically argues that women's periods sync up with one another because it used to provide safety from males looking to single one woman out to mate with.
Keep in mind, there's a fair amount of disagreement on this topic, so it's up to you and your friends to decide whether it's a coincidence or an evolutionary phenomenon that's making you all want black raspberry ice cream at the same time.
Curbing or increasing your daily intake of food by a considerable margin can affect your period, especially if you're doing it by unhealthy means. Not eating enough food triggers your body to enter a survival mode, in which periods trickle to a stop so that your body doesn't waste extra energy. Similarly, eating more food than normal can cause excessive levels of estrogen in your system, thus causing you to bleed at unusual times of the month.
If you're considering a change in your diet, the best option is always to speak with a doctor prior to making the change.
Adding new cosmetics or beauty products into your life might change the way you appreciate your cheekbones, but they could also have a negative impact on your menstruation cycle.
Some products contain endocrine disruptors, which get in the way of your body's ability to carry out a normal, healthy period. For this reason, it's a great habit to actually read the ingredients found within beauty products before purchasing them. Specifically, try to avoid ingredients like DDT and bisphenol A.
Sleeping too little can have a massive impact on your menstrual health. For the same reasons that stress and working night shifts could hurt your cycle, not sleeping enough in general is a pretty bad idea if you want a consistent and healthy period each month. Shifting, disrupting, or depriving your body's clock of its needed sleep hours can immediately affect the hormonal regulation that occurs within your body.
If you have trouble falling asleep, consider putting your phone in another room so that you're not staring at that blue light before closing your eyes for the night.