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Guest blog by Hollie Jones
Travelling can have many interesting — and sometimes challenging — consequences for our bodies. Jet lag, stomach problems, and dehydration can all be impacted by travel. But did you know that travelling can affect your period too?
In this post, we’ll be exploring the different ways that travel could affect your period — as well as what to do about it.
If you want to know whether travelling can really affect your period, the answer is yes.
Of course, everyone is different and you may not experience any noticeable differences to your cycle at all while travelling. However, if you’re setting off on a new adventure or expedition, it’s useful to know how travelling can affect your period, and why these changes happen in the first place.
Here are the most common reasons why your menstrual cycle is affected by travelling:
If you’re doing a long-distance flight and you’re crossing multiple different time zones in the process, you’re in danger of getting jet lag. And aside from messing up your sleep patterns and making you feel exhausted for a few days, jet lag can also affect your period.
This is because jet lag messes with our internal body clock (known as circadian rhythms).
This natural cycle runs on hormone and chemical releases, and governs our sleeping patterns, eating habits, digestion, and — you’ve guessed it — our menstrual cycles too. So when our body clock is disrupted, it’s no surprise that your normal rhythms and hormonal balance are thrown off, resulting in a late period.
The added sleep deprivation can also influence your internal hormone levels, makes the situation even worse.
Stress can also impact menstruation, so if you’re having a particularly difficult time or on a challenging expedition, you may notice a delay in your period or you might miss a period altogether.
This is because stress changes your hormone balance — affecting oestrogen production, which disrupts ovulation.
It is thought that this is a natural response that humans have evolved over time: stress means danger, which means that a baby would be born into an unsafe environment, which means it’s less likely to survive, hence why our body delays the possibility of pregnancy. Handy if you’re fighting with another caveman tribe or trying to survive a mini ice age — not so useful if you’ve just missed a flight.
Even changes to your normal routine (like diet and exercise) can throw your menstrual cycle off track.
If you’re not exercising like you normally do, or you’ve gone from a healthy, balanced diet to bingeing on cocktails and local delicacies, then your hormonal secretions may change which may affect your period.
Although it sounds bizarre, changes to where you’re living can also impact your menstrual cycle: namely, living at altitude or somewhere with a severe temperature drop. So if you’re trekking in a mountain range or on a skiing trip, don’t be alarmed if your period is thrown off schedule. If you’re suffering from altitude sickness, there is also the risk that you might throw up any oral contraceptives, which could also affect the irregularity of your period.
Having an unpredictable period when you’re travelling can be frustrating at the best of times, and severely impact your enjoyment of one leg of a trip at the worst.
However, there are a few ways you can handle an unreliable menstrual cycle when you’re travelling:
Late and missed periods can be perfectly natural when you’ve been travelling. Although it can be tempting to rush out to the nearest pharmacy and buy every pregnancy test on the shelves, you shouldn’t panic.
However, if you do think that there is a chance you may be pregnant and you’re experiencing other symptoms (such as nausea and tender breasts), it is worth taking a test to be sure. After all, there’s no harm in double-checking.
There are things you can do to regulate your period.
If you haven’t set off on your travels yet, it might be worth getting a prescription of the contraceptive pill to regulate your cycle. If you’re on hormonal birth control, you generally aren’t as susceptible to the hormonal fluctuations caused by travel stress and jet lag, so it’s worth trying.
There are a few different types of contraceptive pill, and some (like the combined pill — which contains progesterone and oestrogen) can even be taken back-to-back to delay your period safely when you’re travelling (which is useful if you’re going on an expedition or trekking trip).
Exercising can help improve period-related symptoms, such as fluid retention and bloating.
Getting the right amount of sleep can also regulate your hormones and your menstrual cycle. A lack of sleep leads to unbalanced hormones, so make sure you’re getting your eight hours while you’re away.
Being prepared when it comes to your period is one of the best ways to handle an unpredictable menstrual cycle.
That means packing an emergency period kit full of essentials in your rucksack. You can fill this with whatever you need — whether it’s tampons, pads, a menstrual cup or period underwear.
Top it up with other essentials like tissues, fem wipes and anti-bacterial gel — after all, you don’t know what sort of bathroom facilities you’re going to find on your travels, so it’s worth being prepared.
Travelling really can affect your period for all sorts of reasons, so it’s worth being clued up on ways to tackle the issue. Follow these tips to manage your menstruation and have a happy period on your next adventure!
Hollie Jones is a freelance blogger
Recommended reading: Plastic-free Periods by City to Sea
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