Mind over matter: psychological factors and the menstrual cycle

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Increasingly, gynaecologists are becoming aware of the impact of psychosocial factors on women's health generally, and on the menstrual cycle in particular. This review highlights developments in this field in the last triennium.

Recent findings

Stress impairs the ovarian cycle through activation of the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis. The effect of psychological stress on the menstrual cycle is mediated by metabolic factors. Stress-induced impairment of ovarian function may not necessarily manifest as menstrual irregularity, and the effects of stress may persist beyond the cycle in which the stress episode occurred. Response to stress may be determined not so much by the nature of the stress as by the intrinsic neuronal attributes of the individual.

Summary

Interventions to address underlying stress should be part of the management regime for women with menstrual cycle abnormalities.

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