Periods changed for half of women as lockdown anxiety took physical toll

Over half of women saw their menstrual cycle change during lockdown amid soaring levels of anxiety, a survey has found.

More than half of reproductive-age women had a reduced sex drive during the pandemic, and 56 per cent saw a change to their menstrual cycle, researchers found.

There was a "significant increase" in those reporting heavy, painful or missed periods compared to pre-pandemic, the authors said.

The study, which is being presented to the Society for Endocrinology conference in Edinburgh, examined the disruption to menstrual cycles for reproductive-age women a year into the pandemic. Researchers say it "continues to bear a significant impact on female reproductive health".

The poll came after significant numbers of women anecdotally reported changes to their periods during the crisis.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin surveyed 1,335 women of reproductive age, with an average age of 34, in April.

Some 56 per cent of those said they had seen an overall change in their cycle since the beginning of the pandemic.

A total of 64 per cent of women reported worsening premenstrual symptoms and 54 per cent had a reduction in their libido.

The researchers said that rates of severe depression, anxiety and poor sleep were more than double those seen in the wider community.

They pointed out that poor sleep and increased psychological distress have already been linked to disruption to a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Women experiencing reproductive disturbances should ‘see their GP for advice’

And in the latest study, those who reported poor sleep quality were more likely to report an overall change in menstrual cycle and missed periods during the pandemic.

Increased levels of anxiety appeared to be linked to a higher chance of developing painful periods and the worsening of premenstrual symptoms.

Six ways to manage anxiety

Dr Michelle Maher, the study author, said: "Our findings highlight a real need to provide appropriate medical care and mental health support to women affected by menstrual disturbance, given the unprecedented psychological burden associated with the pandemic.

"We would encourage women experiencing any reproductive disturbances – such as irregular, missed periods, painful or heavy periods, PMS or reduced sex drive – as well as mental health disturbances, including symptoms of low mood, anxiety, stress and poor sleep, to see their GP for advice."

The authors said that this is the first study which shows the ongoing impact of the pandemic on women’s reproductive health a year into the pandemic and they called for more research to examine the future impact on women.

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