- Changes in time zone, habit, or stress that accompanies travel may cause irregularities with your period.
If you’re on contraception, it’s less likely that your menstrual cycle will be affected by travel.
- Speaking with your doctor can help pinpoint what’s going on with an abnormal period.
A person’s period is a frustrating and unpredictable thing and this is only exacerbated while traveling.
If you’re wondering if traveling actually affects your period, here’s what doctors have to say.
For many people, it might be about stress
Vacations are great, but travel isn’t all fun and games. A missed connecting flight, lost luggage, or navigating your way around an unfamiliar environment can all add to the stress level of travel. This might make your hormones get out of whack.
“Travel can definitely alter menstrual habits,” Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, practicing gynecologist at CareMount Medical in Westchester County, New York, told INSIDER. “Travel involves stress for many women. Stress can alter ovulation and the well-orchestrated, accompanied hormonal changes entailed.”
But it’s not all bad stress, it could be good stress, also known as eustress, such as being overly excited about your vacation.
“Stress can be from anything, such as the stress from the excitement of travel or the stress of a delayed flight,” Dr. Donnica Moore, host of the podcast “In The Ladies’ Room“, explained to INSIDER. “Stress operates by affecting your hypothalamus, which in turn, can affect all of your hormone levels.”
Switching time zones and sleep deprivation can alter your circadian rhythm
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Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal clock. It influences your sleeping habits, hormone release, eating habits, and other bodily functions. Your circadian rhythm responds to lightness and darkness so when you travel through time zones, your body is actively trying to figure out how to get back onto its normal schedule, which might alter your period.
“Sleep deprivation – even just changing one or two time zones – can really mess with your circadian rhythms,” Dr. Moore explained. “And your circadian rhythms can also influence your internal hormone levels.”
Add jet lag to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for an altered menstrual cycle.
Changes in regular habits can throw your period off
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When you go on vacation, you’re most likely trying new foods, staying out later, sleeping in longer, or not exercising regularly. And while we’re allowed to let loose when we travel, our menstrual cycle is wondering what’s going on out there and it might act up.
“With travel comes changes in general habits, such as diet, sleep, hydration, or exercise. All of which have an influence on menstruation,” Dr. Dweck told INSIDER.
These shifts in habit might result in getting sick
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I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person who inevitably gets sick when I travel. My body just can’t fight the germs of a plane filled with coughing and sneezing strangers.
“Stress can also include the stress of illness,” Dr. Moore said. “You’re being exposed to different kinds of viruses and bacteria than what you’re used to. You may be eating different foods, drinking different water, and your regular habits of exercise and nutrition can be totally off.”
So your period can be affected when your body’s working hard to fight off illness. Dr. Moore also noted that changes in altitude (which may lead to altitude sickness) can impact your menstrual cycle. That’s valuable to keep in mind during ski trips or treks to high mountain ranges.
If you’re on contraception, it is more likely that your period will arrive on time
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“If you are on the pill, the number one way travel can affect your period is if you forget to take it,” Dr. Moore told INSIDER. “Changing time zones can wreak havoc on your pill schedule, and also on your endogenous hormonal schedule.”
Be conscious of changes in time zones when taking your birth control pill at the same time every day. This will help you avoid any menstrual irregularities that may occur.
If you’re preparing for a big trip or are already living the life on vacation, don’t fret about your period. Give your body time to adjust to changes in time zones, habit, or stress that accompanies travel.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes a whacky period, so if you’re not convinced that travel is to blame, it’s probably best to speak with a doctor to find a cause and solution to those frustrating period problems.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.