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Many women experienced worse cramps and reduced sex drive during the pandemic. Here’s why.

by Tilly O'Brien

Researchers have found that the “once in a lifetime” physical and psychological impact of the pandemic has had an effect on many women’s menstrual cycles and sex drives. Earlier this year, some women feared that COVID-19 vaccinations may be affecting their menstrual cycles due to heavier and belated periods. However, research proved this theory to be wrong.

Nevertheless, the majority of women’s cycles have been altered during the pandemic, although not due to the vaccine. Researchers from Trinity College Dublin, say that there’s been a “significant increase” in women experiencing heavier, painful, and delayed periods since the pandemic began.”  In fact, compared to the pre-pandemic period, 46% of the women surveyed reported changes in their menstrual cycle, with 53% of them reporting worsening PMS symptoms, and 9% reporting missing periods. Moreover, 54% of women claimed a reduction in their libido.

The study found that, since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in women experiencing depression, poor appetite, binge eating, anxiety, and poor sleep, and the researchers theorize that this has had an impact on women’s periods. Sleep deprivation in particular seems to have caused an overall change to many women’s monthly cycles, and caused a reduction in participants’ sex drives. Higher levels of anxiety were also linked to a greater chance of having painful periods and the worsening of PMS symptoms, as well as a reduced sex drive.

The study was conducted among UK women using an “anonymous digital survey” to ask questions regarding their menstrual cycles, mood, anxiety levels, eating habits and sleep patterns since the pandemic. The survey was “shared by the authors via social media in September 2020. All women of reproductive age were invited to complete the survey,” and 1031 women responded. The researchers limited this study to women only.

“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,” study author Dr Michelle Maher told Metro UK. “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,” she continues. 

Thus, while the mental strain of the pandemic may be having an effect on your menstrual cycle and sex drive, there is nothing to worry about. The main concern here is to make sure that you’re looking after your mental health and know who to contact if your low mood or anxiety becomes unbearable.

Top photo courtesy of Sidney Sims on Unsplash

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