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09th Nov 2021

Menstrual cycles and sex drive affected by stress of pandemic, research finds

Katy Brennan

The pandemic has had an overall negative effect on women’s reproductive health.

The stress of the past 18 months has taken its toll on everyone and new research has revealed that it has even affected our menstrual cycles and sex drive.

In the first study of its kind to explore the topic in detail, researchers from Trinity College Dublin surveyed 1,335 women of reproductive age back in April.

Results show the pandemic “continues to bear a significant impact on female reproductive health” with high levels of stress and disturbed sleep patterns contributing to the disruption of periods.

Over half of women say they have experienced changes to their cycle with an increase in heavier and more painful periods. 64% of women also noticed that their PMS symptoms had become more intense.

Women who experienced disruptions to their sleep cycle reported an overall change in their monthly cycle and missed periods.

Previous studies that have shown that that lack of sleep and heightened stress can impact the menstrual cycle.

The research also found that 54% of women have experienced a reduced sex drive compared to pre-pandemic times. This figure may be related to an increase in the rates of depression and anxiety in menstruating women over the past 18 months, as well as poor sleep patterns.

Dr Michelle Maher, who conducted the study, 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.

Study authors are now calling for further research into the impact the pandemic has had and continues to have on women.