‘Shit pregnant.’ – That was my reac­tion when I didn’t get my period almost two years ago. It took six weeks and a pani­cky visit to my gyne­co­lo­gist to finally see red again. Of course I wasn’t pregnant, but my body was just incredi­bly stres­sed and over­whel­med. I was suf­fe­ring mens­trual cycle irre­gu­la­rity.
This sum­mer it hap­pened again. My period was three weeks late. This time there was no need to call my gyne­co­lo­gist in panic or pee on a small stick that told me “not pregnant” after two end­less minu­tes. This time I knew why; I had even expec­ted it. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one this year. But back to the beginning:

It just won’t flow

First things first, if your period stops and you do not know why, see your gyne­co­lo­gist. Ine­vi­ta­bly you will still do one thing first: Goog­ling. If you are loo­king for ans­wers on the inter­net, you will defi­ni­tely come across the word ‘amenor­rhoea’ (bes­i­des pregnancy and meno­pause). With this beau­ti­ful cli­ni­cal word there is even a divi­sion into pri­mary and secon­dary amenor­r­hea. The for­mer descri­bes the absence of the men­ar­che, i.e. the first blee­ding, until the age of 16. Secon­dary amenor­r­hea is any absence of blee­ding after the men­ar­che that lasts lon­ger than three mon­ths. Three mon­ths? In my case I was really lucky then. In addi­tion, you will find all kinds of explana­ti­ons ran­ging from bre­ast­fee­ding, the influ­ence of medi­ca­tion, weight fluc­tua­tions, and so on.

Stress can cause menstrual cycle irregularity

What always seems to appear some­where at the end of this list is stress. Stops taking the birth con­trol makes the list as well. Howe­ver, because the ent­ire time a womxn takes the pill, there is no real mens­trual blee­ding since there is no ovu­la­tion, this state­ment is pretty silly in my opi­nion. Roughly spea­king, taking the pill is a drug-indu­ced amenor­r­hea – but that is not what this is about. It’s about stress and how it ine­vi­ta­bly affects our cycle. Stress affects the hypo­tha­la­mus, which is respon­si­ble for hor­mone balance, among other things. So when we are stres­sed (con­sciously or uncon­sciously) due to grief, ever­y­day stress, new life cir­cum­s­tan­ces and other daily rou­ti­nes, future or other fears, love­sick­ness, psy­cho­lo­gi­cal stress or simi­lar things, it affects our hor­mone balance and ulti­mately our ute­rus and ova­ries. The result: a mens­trual cycle irregularity

Periods don’t stop for pandemics?

Fear of the future, new daily rou­ti­nes – does this sound fami­liar to you in 2020? Most likely. Due to the cur­rent situa­tion, since mid-March at the latest, we have all been expo­sed to an unspeaka­ble num­ber of fac­tors that put stress and psy­cho­lo­gi­cal strain on us. We are not used to situa­tions like this, neit­her is our cycle. By the way, those who are cur­r­ently suf­fe­ring from stress may not feel the effects until the next cycle or the one after that.
study in Uganda actually found that 35 per­cent of those sur­veyed had expe­ri­en­ced a change in their cycle and mens­trua­tion since the begin­ning of the pan­de­mic. Five per­cent had no period at all. I’m not say­ing that we could com­pare our corona anxiety with that of the people in Uganda, but I do want to empha­size that these are not just a few iso­la­ted cases.

I am waiting for some kind of menstrual cycle irregularity

Since the begin­ning of the pan­de­mic, I have the­re­fore only been wai­t­ing for my body to pull the safety net and say: Sorry, but under these cir­cum­s­tan­ces I don’t trust you to carry a child. Because that’s what it means when your period stops due to stress and you are expe­ri­en­cing some form of mens­trual cycle irre­gu­la­rity. The body doesn’t want to incre­ase the risk of pregnancy with a fresh ovu­la­tion in the new cycle, because the brain is cur­r­ently emit­ting an alarm.

The cycle as the sixth sense

For most people, their period is merely a guide to their fer­ti­lity: pregnant. Not pregnant. Meno­pause. Boom. Done. Next chap­ter in the bio­logy book. But it’s not that easy with your period. It is, as Franka Frei once exp­lai­ned to me in an inter­view, our addi­tio­nal vital para­me­ter. Our sixth sense, so to speak. Our free mon­thly check-up to make sure our hor­mone levels are in balance. Its inten­sity, absence, color and dura­tion can tell us so much about our phy­si­cal and above all psy­cho­lo­gi­cal con­di­tion, whe­ther we want to admit it or not. Espe­cially now it is more important than ever to pay atten­tion to this and not to dis­miss a mis­sed period as unimportant.

When you are experiencing menstrual cycle irregularity, there is a reason

‘Peri­ods don’t stop for pan­de­mics’ was one of many slo­gans in social net­works this year, fol­lo­wed by many important actions. Howe­ver, we should not for­get: “Peri­ods might stop during pan­de­mics” – and that’s okay. It is a sign that we should always be able to under­stand, not only now but in the future. Peri­ods never stop without a rea­son, but this rea­son does not always have to be a baby. There can be many rea­sons, some more worry­ing than others. Howe­ver, if you can attri­bute the absence of your period to stress or big chan­ges in your life, don’t ignore it or talk it down, but give your body the rest it demands.

Illus­tra­tion by Mag­da­lena Otter­stedt / Kopf­über Design for Vul­vani

Periode verliebt, Menstruation around the world, Zyklusbewusstsein, Vorfreude auf erste Periode, Menstruationserfahrung, Periodendoku, Dokumentarfilm über die Periode, Periodentabu, Menstruationstabu, Katharina Vorndran, Vulvani
Jour­na­list | Web­site | + posts

Katha­rina Vorn­dran is a tele­vi­sion jour­na­list from Leip­zig with a deep love for old came­ras and the writ­ten word. On her blog she wri­tes about ever­ything that moves her - life, love and peri­ods. Her love for the female cycle goes as far as making a whole docu­men­tary about it. When she's not try­ing to put the things that move her into words, she's a deeply rela­xed yogi with a small wine problem.