We all live with stress, and we’re good at writing it off as No Big Deal. And it probably seems like stress doesn’t affect your health. After all, everything looks fine on the outside. But stress can wreak havoc on your hormones, and therefore, your menstrual cycle. 

Your hormones increase and decrease in specific patterns, and each pattern helps your cycle move through one of its four, distinct phases. (You can read more about those phases here and here.)

If the stress hormone, cortisol, is too high, it throws the rest of the hormones out of balance. And so begins a negative domino effect in your menstrual cycle.

Here are just five ways that stress can negatively impact your period

Stress disrupts blood sugar levels

When blood sugar levels are thrown off, it can make PMS and period pain worse.

Stress decreases progesterone

Low levels of progesterone can make it more difficult for conception to occur. That’s why it’s so important to relieve stress before you try to get pregnant.

Stress makes ovulation late

If you’re experiencing high stress around the time your body usually ovulates, your body will either delay ovulation or avoid it altogether.

Stress can delay your period

Just as stress can throw off your ovulation, it can also cause uncomfortable irregularities in your period. For example, you can experience spotting, an early period, or a different-looking period. For example, blood color, period length and period symptoms can be different than usual.

Stress can lead to missing periods

You may skip a period altogether, or you might eventually bleed, but only because the uterus must shed the lining it built up in the last cycle. Neither of these conditions are healthy and they indicate hormonal imbalance.