When it comes to your period, you’ve probably learned by now that you should never get too comfortable with your cycle. Most of us will experience changes in the length of our cycle, fluctuations in flow and even changing PMS symptoms. And there’s another possibility — perhaps your menstrual cycle changes with seasons, too.
If so, you’re not imagining it. It’s a recorded phenomenon, and here’s how the shifts from winter to spring to summer to fall might be affecting you!
1. Warm Weather Fights Moodiness
When it comes to mood swings in women, PMS is one of the four leading causes. Hormonal changes, stress and menopause can also cause our feelings to ebb and flow at an unpredictable pace.
In the lead-up to your period, then, you might be feeling moodier than usual. One of the ways your menstrual cycle changes with seasons is that sunny springs and summers scientifically make us feel happier, thus warding off the wrath of a typically moody PMS cycle.
Here’s how it works — when the sun’s out and our bodies have the chance to soak up its rays, our bodies respond positively. They begin to churn out more vitamin D and dopamine. A lack of vitamin D has known links to depression, and many Americans do not get enough of it because they spend so much time indoors. When it’s spring or summer, though, the sun creeps back out and entices us to head outside. A morning walk or an afternoon by the pool can instantly make us feel good because we got a rush of vitamin D. Similarly, a healthy level of dopamine fights off both depression and mania.
To that end, warm weather inspires us to go outside and get moving, which can also relieve some of the pains and aches that come with our periods. So with a combination of sunshine, vitamin D, dopamine and a bit of sweat, spring and summer bring about the first of the ways your menstrual cycle changes with seasons.
2. Winter Weight Gain Contributes
It’s normal to put on a few pounds over the winter — in fact, there’s a scientific explanation as to why our bodies cling to calories when it’s cold. Long before humankind had cozy houses and central heating, our ancestors would spend winter trying to survive the frigid temperatures. As such, their bodies adjusted to hanging onto fat when it got cold — being overweight posed much less of a threat to their well-being than an underweight frame.
Nowadays, most people don’t have to worry about surviving in such a way, but our bodies still tend to hold onto extra pounds through the winter thanks to evolutionary instincts. Most of us will eventually work them off, whether on purpose or by instinctively eating less as the sun returns. But until then, winter weight gain can affect your period.
Here’s another clue to look out for if you think your menstrual cycle changes with seasons: Your flow could last longer or get heavier when you gain a few pounds over the winter. Of course, there’s no single formula for all women, and both under- and overweight women experience changes in their flow. For instance, a woman with a high BMI might experience amenorrhea, which means she doesn’t have a period, or she might have menorrhagia — a very heavy flow.
Your best bet to combat this side effect is to maintain your health regardless of the seasons. Read up on the best women’s health blogs, sign up for a fitness class, whip up nutritious winter stews — whatever gets you through as the healthiest version of yourself will help you avoid this seasonal shift in your period.
3. You May Be More Aware in Winter
In spring and summer, we’re likely to be busy — from beach vacations to weekend barbecues to summer sports leagues, we have plenty to keep us occupied. Plus, in summer, we can wear lightweight, flowy clothes and get more exercise from merely spending time in the sun, as we’ve already mentioned. This bliss comes with a bonus — we might perceive our periods to be less painful during the summer months.
Think about it this way — in the winter, we pack ourselves into layers and commute to work in freezing weather. Many struggle with seasonal affective disorder in the winter as well. Adding intense period cramps, hormonal acne or an irritable mood swing on top of that makes matters worse. In other words, your pre- or post-menstrual syndrome is still alive and well. Your period flows the same and lasts just as long as it does in summer, but the weather sometimes makes it seem worse.
How to Deal with Menstrual Cycle Changes with Seasons
One of the best ways to deal with your menstrual cycle changing with the seasons? Maintain perspective. Remember the things that make you happy, whether it’s hot or cold, sunny or snowy. Doing so, along with exercise and time spent outdoors, however short, will help keep you balanced throughout the year.