Women’s reproductive health has suffered as a consequence of the stresses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, with disturbances in menstrual cycles and worsening of premenstrual symptoms, suggest Irish survey data.
“Our findings highlight a real need to provide appropriate medical care and mental health support to women affected by menstrual disturbance, given the unprecedented psychological burden associated with the pandemic,” said study co-author Dr Michelle Maher, Department of Endocrinology, St James’ Hospital, Dublin, in a news release.
The survey, conducted in April 2021, included more than 1300 women, 56% of whom reported changes to their menstrual cycle, 64% worsening of premenstrual symptoms, and 54% reduced sex drive.
The respondents also had high levels of depression, anxiety, and poor sleep, which were significant predictors of changes to reproductive health, suggests the research, presented at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual conference, SfE BES 2021, in Edinburgh on November 9.
Lead researcher Dr Lisa Owens, also at St James’s Hospital, told Medscape News UK there “is a need to educate and inform women, as many women do not know the impact their lifestyle and mental health can have on their reproductive health”.
She also believes that general practitioners have a role to play in providing advice to women with mental difficulties, and highlighted that cognitive behavioural therapy and dietary and exercise changes can help women with hypothalamic amenorrhoea.
The team now plans to conduct the surveys at 6-month intervals to identify any longer-term effects on female reductive and mental health, as well as gathering blood pressure, weight, sex hormone, and ovulation measures.