It’s no secret that stress can affect your health. Think about it—how do you feel when you start to get overwhelmed? Your heart probably beats faster, your stomach might churn, a tension headache may set in, and other physical symptoms likely manifest. Women are even more likely to feel stress symptoms than men, and the ways in which they are affected can have overlap, but may also be quite different.
Most of the time, these symptoms go away when the stressor goes away. But what about when your stressors are chronic or longer lasting? How is a woman’s health impacted then?
1) Fertility Problems
Women who are under more stress can sometimes have more trouble getting pregnant. Some studies have shown that higher levels of a stress-related enzyme, alpha-amylase, can make it more difficult to conceive. Women in the study who had the highest enzyme concentrations during their cycle were 12% less likely to get pregnant than women with lower levels.
2) Period Irregularity
If you think about it, you can probably remember a stressful time in your life when you either didn’t get your period or got one of the worst periods of your life. Chronic and long-term stress affects your body’s hormone balance. This can cause more PMS symptoms and seriously mess with your cycle, resulting in irregular, heavier, more painful, and longer or shorter periods.
3) Gastrointestinal Issues
The brain-gut connection is a well-known phenomenon. Short-term stress can cause symptoms like that stomach churning or butterfly feeling mentioned earlier, or even nausea or diarrhea. Prolonged stress can increase stomach acid, leading to indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux. Poor digestion can also be a response to stress, resulting in symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, obesity, and IBS flares.
4) Increased Heart Disease Risk
When your body has a stress response, stress hormones make your blood vessels constrict, so more oxygen can be sent to your muscles to prepare for your fight or flight response. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. If your stress is long-term or chronic, your heart rate and blood pressure remain elevated, which can lead to serious heart issues over time, such as stroke or heart attack.
5) Weakened Immune System
The chronic presence of stress hormones weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection and illness. If you are constantly stressed, you’re more susceptible to getting a cold or the flu, or triggering flareups of chronic conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. With a weakened immune system, it will also take you longer to recover from illness.
6) Poor Mental Health
Of course, stress doesn’t just impact your physical health, but your mental health as well. Experiencing symptoms of stress, especially for a long time, makes you more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and similar mental health conditions. In fact, women are twice as likely to experience depression than men as it is, so they are especially at risk. These conditions are often triggered by chronically high cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
One thing you can do to take some stress off your plate is ensure your women’s health needs are being met by compassionate and qualified medical professionals. At South Avenue Women’s Health Services, we offer a wide range of medical services for women to help you stay healthy, happy, and well-informed of your options. From abortion to birth control, mammograms to gynecology exams and more, we’ve got you fully covered.
For more information about our services, or to book your first appointment, call us at 585-271-3850 today!