Meditation, stress, and your cycle

Top things to know

  • Practicing meditation can promote both mental and physical changes throughout the body
  • Meditation may improve stress-related mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression
  • Meditation may improve emotional and physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome

What is meditation?

Meditation is a body-mind practice involving purposeful attention spent on a thought, moment, state, or experience. Different types of meditation include yoga, mindfulness meditation, Qi Gong, breathing exercises, guided meditations, and many other forms. Meditation cultivates a non-judgemental awareness of the practitioner’s present physical and emotional state.

Why track meditation?

Practicing meditation has been scientifically tested to promote both mental and physical changes throughout the body (1). There is evidence that people who meditate experience improvements in stress-related mental health symptoms, such as decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression (1).

High levels of perceived daily stress — defined as challenges that individuals view as taxing, or exceeding their ability to cope — are associated with lower levels of estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone, and with higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) (2). High perceived daily stress levels were also associated with increased rates of anovulation (a menstrual cycle where an egg is not released) (2). However, even with these hormonal changes, high levels of daily stress were not associated with changes of menstrual cycle length and blood loss during menstruation (2).

Stress has also been shown to impact fertility (3). In one study, as alpha-amylase (one marker of perceived psychosocial stress) rose, the chances of conception decreased (3).

Dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation) may also be influenced by stress. Women under high stress may be twice as likely to have dysmenorrhea (4). Specifically, research found high levels of stress during the follicular phase (the first half of your cycle) of the previous month had a greater association with dysmenorrhea than at other times of the cycle (4). These associations were stronger for women who had a history of dysmenorrhea (4). Stress is associated with many more aspects of the menstrual cycle — you can read more about stress and the cycle here.

Mindfulness has also been shown to influence attitudes about menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptom severity (5). Meditation has been demonstrated to improve physical and emotional symptoms of PMS, especially in people with severe PMS. Even when compared to similar quiet practices such as reading for pleasure, meditation produces more symptom relief (6).

Meditation may also improve certain premenstrual physical symptoms including pain and water retention, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats (7).

Meditation is a low harm, low cost, and beneficial practice that could potentially improve PMS symptoms and reduce stress.

Consider giving it a try and tracking your progress with Clue.


References

1. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357.

2. Schliep KC, Mumford SL, Vladutiu CJ, Ahrens KA, Perkins NJ, Sjaarda LA, et al. Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function: a prospective cohort study. Epidemiology. 2015;26(2):177–84.

3. Louis GM, Lum KJ, Sundaram R, Chen Z, Kim S, Lynch CD, Schisterman EF, Pyper C. Stress Reduces Conception Probabilities across the Fertile Window: Evidence in Support of Relaxation. Fertil Steril. 2011 Jun; 95(7): 2184–2189.

4. Wang L, Wang X, Wang W, Chen C, Ronnennberg AG, Guang A, et al. Stress and dysmenorrhoea: a population based prospective study. Occup Environ Med. 2004;61:1021–6.

5. Lustyk, M.K.B., Gerrish, W.G., Douglas, H. et al. Relationships Among Premenstrual Symptom Reports, Menstrual Attitudes, and Mindfulness. Mindfulness. [2011 Mar];2(1):37–48.

6. Goodale IL, Domar AD, Benson H. Alleviation of premenstrual syndrome symptoms with the relaxation response. Obstet Gynecol. 1990 Apr;75(4):649–55.

7. Carmody JF, Crawford S, Salmoirago-Blotcher E, Leung K, Churchill L, Olendzki N. Mindfulness training for coping with hot flashes: results of a randomized trial. Menopause. 2011;18(6):611–20.