How Stress Can Be Detrimental For Your Hormones

Published on 03/26/21

Feeling slightly stressed is pretty normal and can be managed easily. Having heightened levels for extended periods of time, however, can be detrimental to your health. Stress disrupts the natural balance of hormones in the body. Being over stressed can cause additional issues like insomnia, low energy, decreased sex drive, or even obesity. 

  • Energy: 50 percent
  • Sex life: 39 percent
  • Overall self-confidence: 27 percent
  • Feeling like a woman: 19 percent
  • Feeling alienated: 18 percent

How do you know if you’ve reached these levels of stress? Here are a few points to consider to tell if you’ve reached a turning point. 

How Does Stress Create A Hormone Imbalance?

Your body naturally creates the stress hormones we currently have. These hormones are produced by the endocrine system and include hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help you react to certain situations that may need a quick increase of attention and energy. We all experience small surges of stress. Whether you have to give a presentation, starting a new day on the job, maybe trying to avoid being late to something important. These are experiences everyone has here and there.

Unfortunately when we release these stressors more frequently and for long periods of time. These hormones remain in the bloodstream and cause a hormone imbalance. This is your body trying to manage our “fight or flight” response. And without this management, these hormones can create chaos when it comes to your health.

Your body treats the stress as a threat and tries to protect you from any threats.

When your body thinks there’s a possibility of a threat, your brain sets off an alarm that encourages your adrenal glands to produce a ton of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

When adrenaline is released, it increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and provides a quick energy boost. When cortisol is released, it increases glucose in the bloodstream and curbs functions in the body that it sees as unnecessary in a situation it considers stressful. Some of these being the digestive system, immune, and reproductive systems.

Sometimes it gets worse under chronic conditions and your body struggles to keep up with the demand to produce cortisol. If this happens, your body takes other hormones like progesterone and converts it to cortisol to keep up with the demand. This now creates an imbalance of hormones between progesterone and estrogen. Or estrogen dominance.

Estrogen dominance can cause headaches, mood swings, sleep issues, anxiety, stubbornness and low energy.

You may be experiencing high amounts of stress if:

  • have trouble falling or staying asleep at night
  • wake up feeling tired and irritable
  • struggle to lose weight, despite regular exercise
  • have lost your desire in the bedroom
  • experience PMS symptoms
  • have mood swings or bursts of hostility
  • are suffering from hot flashes and night sweats
  • have cravings for sugar and alcohol
  • need coffee to get through your day
  • have issues with your thyroid 
  • have PCOS
  • are easily stressed out or feel anxious
  • have headaches or migraines regularly

Female reproductive system

Sex Drive

Across a lifespan, women juggle everything from finances, to profession, to personal, and family demands. This can cause distraction, stress, fatigue and more. A combination of all this may reduce sexual desire. Add in when women are caring for young children or other family members. This can encourage feeling depressed, experiencing difficulties, dealing with work problems, etc.

PMS

Stress can make premenstrual symptoms worse. Not only worse, but even harder to cope with. These symptoms could be fluid retention, bloating, cramping, feeling irritable, and mood swings. 

Pregnancy

Stress heavily affects a woman’s reproductive system. It can impact her ability to conceive, the health of the entirety of the pregnancy, and her postpartum adjustment. This also can induce depression which is a leading problem with pregnancy complications and postpartum adjustments. 

With excess stress, developing anxiety and depression throughout this time can negatively impact fetal and ongoing childhood development. This can also disrupt bonding with the baby in the weeks and months after delivery.

Menstruation

In adolescent girls and women, stress may affect the menstruation cycle. High levels of stress may cause an absent or irregular menstrual cycle, changes in the length of the cycle, and/or more painful periods.

Menopause

When menopause approaches, hormones fluctuate naturally anyway. When your body goes through these changes, you may find that mood swings, distress, and anxiety may be associated. So menopause is already a stressor as itself. 

When you add emotional stress, this may cause physical symptoms to be worse. Possibly more anxiousness, a higher number of hot flashes, or more severe or intense hot flashes.

Diseases of the reproductive system

When stress is high, this increases the chance of exacerbation of symptoms of reproductive disease states, much like herpes simplex virus ro polycystic ovarian syndrome. The diagnosis and treatments of cancers in the reproductive system, can cause a large amount of stress. This means it needs additional attention and support.

Stress management

Most of these points should worry you. When you understand the reasons and the effects of stress, finding effective strategies to reduce that stress can be easier and beneficial:

Such beneficial strategies include:

  • Maintaining a healthy social support network
  • Engaging in regular physical exercise
  • Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night

Approaching stress in this manner has important benefits for both physical and mental health. As well as helps you form important building blocks for a healthy lifestyle. 

Overall Health When It Comes To Our Hormones

We’re only meant to deal with stress on occasion. However, in today’s world, being “stressed out” is an everyday problem that seems to be increasing more commonly. If you feel you’re stressed out all the time, or chronically stressed, you are at higher risk of health problems. These could be high blood pressure, weight gain, thyroid issues, higher risk for insomnia, depression, anxiety, infections, and gastrointestinal problems like constipation and diarrhea.

When it comes to too much stress, it causes too much stress on the body. Which could result in an irregular menstrual cycle or infertility in women plus a decrease in libido for both men and women. Not only physical issues but overall personal problems. When stress creates a hormone imbalance, it’s capable of affecting everything about your life. Including mood swings and irritability in a majority of situations.

Why Do We Have This Kind Of Stress?

Everyone reacts to stress very differently. How your body determines how to react are affected by factors such as:

  • Genetics. The genes that control the stress response keep most people on a fairly steady emotional level, only occasionally priming the body for fight or flight. Overactive or underactive stress responses may stem from slight differences in these genes.
  • Life experiences. Strong stress reactions sometimes can be traced to traumatic events. People who were neglected or abused as children tend to be particularly vulnerable to stress. The same is true of people who have experienced violent crime, airplane crash survivors, military personnel, police officers and firefighters.

Some people may find themselves more relaxed about most things and others who stress out at the slightest inconvenience. The majority of us, react somewhere in between.

How To Manage Your Stress

Being aware of when and why you’re feeling a certain way that may pertain to stress is the first way to identify and address any unnecessary stress induced situations. Finding ways to stay calm and better control your reactions to external situations, will help better control stress altogether.

Trying to reduce or even eliminate a hormone imbalance caused by stress can start with strategies such as:

  • Improving your sleep hygiene
  • Taking time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Seeking out emotional support from family and friends 
  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Establishing and maintaining a healthy diet
  • Volunteering in your community
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as trying yoga, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage or learning to meditate
  • Evaluating and adjusting your work-life balance
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed
  • Adopting a regular exercise routine
  • Practicing daily meditation, mindfulness and/or deep breathing exercises
  • Minimizing your consumption of caffeine and alcohol

Even finding a professional therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, or other mental health experts, may also help you learn the best ways to manage your stress. Which in turn helps to improve your physical health.

Need To Talk To The Doctors At Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine?

It’s not always easy to figure out what’s going on inside your body. By paying attention to how you feel and your reactions to stressful situations, you may be able to identify and treat a potential hormone imbalance.

Many women only visit their gynecologist for birth control, a routine Pap test, or a vaginal infection, but gynecology embraces more than routine health care.

At Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine, the team specializes in women’s wellness and provides expert diagnosis and treatment of all reproductive health issues no matter how routine or complex. They welcome women of all ages, so if you have any questions or it’s time to schedule an annual exam, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City or book an appointment online.