Menstrual cycles and sex drives have been disrupted by mental strain of pandemic

The past 18 months have been stressful for so many reasons. 

But it seems the mental strain of the pandemic has had a knock-on effect on menstrual cycles and sex drives.

New research has found that high levels of stress and disturbed sleep experienced by women has contributed to the disruption of their periods. 

In fact, more than half (56%) of reproductive-age women say they’ve seen a change to their monthly cycle, with a ‘significant increase’ of heavier or more painful periods and 64% noting worse PMS symptoms  – compared to pre-pandemic.

Those who have experienced poor sleep quality were more likely to report an overall change in menstrual cycle and missed periods.

Researchers add that this backs up previous studies that have found that not enough sleep and increased psychological distress can impact cycles.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that the vaccine also disrupted menstrual cycles for some women, with many reporting that their periods got heavier after getting the jab.

Women have also experienced a reduced sex drive since March 2020, with 54% stating they’ve had a reduction in their libido.

This could be down to an increase in the rates of severe depression, anxiety and poor sleep, which were more than double in menstruating women, when compared to pre-pandemic times.

The findings are particularly important as they demonstrate that the pandemic continues to negatively impact female reproductive health – and this study is the first of its kind to explore this in detail.

Study author Dr Michelle Maher 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.’

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin, behind the latest study, are also calling for more research into the future impact of the mental distress of the pandemic on women.

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