WHAT IS STRESS?
A brief over view of the HPA axis/stress system.
Increased levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol and aldosterone) in response to stress, over activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and sympathetic nervous system dominance can inhibit reproduction as a mechanism to ‘protect self’. Your body simply won’t put preference to grow and nourish another human being, if its priority is to protect itself, which is the mechanism it’s in when stressed – fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system dominance).
How stress affects your reproductive hormones:
Further to this, continuous maternal exposure to stress whilst pregnant, or exogenous glucocorticoids (steroidal drugs) can result in permanent damage to the HPA axis and stress-related behaviours of the offspring, as glucocorticoids are vital for normal brain development.
EXPLAINING THE FEMALE HORMONES DURING MENSTRUATION.
During menstruation, oestrogen drops, & in response the hypothalamus release GnRH, which signals the pituitary to release FSH, which initiates follicular growth in the ovary.
Hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) & in response, the pituitary releases luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to signal the ovaries.
In response, the ovaries release oestrogen and progesterone, which signal back to the hypothalamus, like a feedback loop.
While the follicles are developing, it stimulates the endometrium to develop/proliferate.
The rise in oestrogen in the follicular phase causes changes in the cervical mucous to make it a sticky ‘egg-white’ consistency, Oestrogen continues to rise whilst the ovum (egg) develops in the (most mature) follicle.
The rise in oestrogen triggers the hypothalamus to secrete GnRH, which stimulates the release of LH and FSH, which in turn stimulates the release of the ovum. This is when ovulation occurs.
Once ovulation occurs, FSH levels sharply drop and LH slowly declines.
The Luteal phase follows after ovulation, by which the corpus luteum (which is stimulated by LH) secretes larger quantities of progesterone, followed by constant levels of oestrogen.
Progesterone influences the endometrium (which started to develop under the influence of oestrogen) to develop blood vessels and glandular structures that are able to nourish a developing embryo (if fertilised).
If fertilisation doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum regresses after approx. 14 days, which leads to a decline in the hormones and the endometrium sheds (menstruation).
Once oestrogen levels reach a low enough point, the hypothalamus secretes GnRH, and the cycle starts again.
If your cycle is irregular, and you think stress may be effecting your hormones, then get in contact with me for a Naturopathy appointment in Melbourne or Bright.
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