Study, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Edinburgh: Women’s reproductive health has been disrupted due to the psychological burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, and affected women need additional medical and psychological support, according to recent research presented at the annual conference of the Society for Endocrinology in Edinburgh.

The results indicate that stress and sleep disturbances associated with the pandemic had adverse effects on women’s menstrual cycles. The study suggests that more studies are needed to establish the long-term impact of the pandemic on women’s reproductive health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the lives of our global population. The negative impacts on our mental health have been compounded by significant changes in our daily lifestyle, diet and exercise habits. Stress is a known factor that can disrupt women’s menstrual cycles by affecting hormone levels, as well as causing sleep and body weight disturbances. Stress hormones can directly inhibit the release of sex hormones, while sleep disturbances are associated with infertility and an increase in belly fat is also associated with menstrual dysfunction.

To study the impact of the pandemic on reproductive health, Dr Michelle Maher, as part of a research team led by Dr Lisa Owens in Dublin, interviewed more than 1,300 women in April 2021. In addition to Standard measures of depression, anxiety and sleep quality, the survey also asked about their menstrual cycles.

Menstrual disturbances included irregular, missed, painful, or heavy periods and premenstrual symptoms. 56% of those surveyed reported an overall change in their menstrual cycles since the start of the pandemic, 64% reported worsening PMS symptoms, and 54% experienced reduced libido. Rates of severe depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation were more than double those seen before the pandemic among women of childbearing age.

Menstrual cycle disruptions were associated with increased levels of mental distress and poor sleep in the women interviewed.

Dr. Michelle Maher says, “Our findings highlight a real need to provide appropriate medical care and mental health support to women affected by menstrual disorders, given the unprecedented psychological burden associated with the pandemic. “

This is the first study to show that women continue to suffer from reproductive health problems one year after the onset of the pandemic and that this is associated with increased levels of psychological distress and poor sleep. Further investigation will contribute to a better understanding of the extent of disruptions to reproductive health and will guide our future health practices and policies.

Dr Maher cautions: “This study was conducted at a relatively early stage of the COVID-19 vaccination program, so the duration of the pandemic and the effectiveness of the vaccine may influence future results, an investigation more in-depth with objective and measurable data is needed. “

The team now plans to conduct these surveys at 6-month intervals, to determine progress and identify longer-term effects on women’s reproductive and mental health. In addition to the surveys, more objective measurements of blood pressure, weight, sex hormone levels and ovulation will be collected from participating women.

Dr Maher advises: “We encourage women with reproductive disorders such as (irregular, missed periods, painful or heavy periods, PMS or reduced libido) as well as mental health disorders (including symptoms of poor mood, anxiety, stress and poor sleep) to see their GP for advice. “

“We plan to provide support to women affected by abnormalities in the menstrual cycle by developing psychological support workshops in our center,” adds Dr Maher.

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