Do You Have Irregular Periods When You Travel? Here’s Why!

Menstruation | | Helena Lorimer
6 min read

Is it finally time for a vacay? Yay! Perhaps you’re on your way to a business trip? Or maybe going to see friends or family for the weekend? 

Whatever the reason, traveling is usually kind of a fun activity. By plane, train, bus, or car… any form of transportation can be turned into a fun road trip with the right mindset and attitude.

The journey aside, what are your plans when you arrive at your destination? 

Does it involve sand, sea, and sun tan lotion? Well, whatever it is… we hope you aren’t rudely interrupted by your period! 

But this isn’t always the case… 

How Traveling Affect Your Period

The bad news is, traveling can influence your period in such a way that it could arrive earlier than you expected (potentially messing up your plans).

The good news is, it could be slightly delayed. This could mean that you may just get that period-free trip after all. But is that actually good news when you’re prone to stress when your period is late? Eek!

Let’s uncover the link between travel and your period, shall we?

How Menstruation Works

So, how does menstruation work? Well, according to Joshua U Klein, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist:

“Ultimate control of your menstrual cycle resides with the hormones secreted by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland—essentially your brain.”

And when there are disruptions in your life, such as stress, lack of sleep, and/or a change in diet, this will directly affect these hormones. 

In other words, when these hormones are imbalanced, it can rock the menstrual cycle causing irregular periods.

Now, we’re not saying that all travel is stressful, reduces sleep, or encourages a change in diet—but often, it does. 

Cortisol and Melatonin—Directly Linked to Travel and Stress 

Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone aside, there are other hormones that have a huge impact on your period. They are cortisol and melatonin.

Cortisol is the stress hormone and it works with certain parts of your body to help control your mood, motivation, and levels of fear.

When cortisol levels are high, you’ll feel more stressed. But stress is not just because of bad or worrisome situations. 

In fact, there is a good kind of stress called “eustress” (which could come about if you are excited about your vacation, for example). Whether it’s good or bad stress however, it still affects your menstrual cycle.

And then, melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep and plays a big role in your sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm (the 24-hour internal clock that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness in response to light changes in the environment).

Changes in sleep schedules, like early flights and time zone changes, and added stress can have some effect on these hormone levels,” says Dr. Klein. 

So, while you’re traveling to a location with a different time zone, even if it’s just one or two hours difference, your body is actively trying to figure out how to regulate itself and get back onto its normal schedule.

Not just that, but jet lag too strongly affects one’s circadian rhythm. 

So, what happens when cortisol and melatonin levels are imbalanced? An earlier or later period. 

Other Factors that Can Affect Your Period While Traveling 

Changes in altitude: Dr. Moore revealed that a change in altitude could have an influence on your period. This is a handy piece of information to know when you’re going skiing or somewhere high up in the mountains. 

Forgetting to take your birth control pill: “If you are on the pill, the number one way travel can affect your period is if you forget to take it,” Dr. Donnicca Moore says. “Changing time zones can wreak havoc on your pill schedule, and also on your endogenous hormonal schedule.” 

You may want to be as conscious as possible as to the new time zone you’re in, trying to take your pill at the same time every day, as close as possible to the time you usually take it at home.

Changes in diet and exercise: the chances of you keeping to your preferred diet and exercise schedule whilst traveling are low. 

In fact, many people love to indulge more in different types of food when on vacation. And they are more prone to abandoning their morning run, for example. 

This type of stress, if experienced, is the “good” kind of stress. But as we’ve learned, even good stress can affect one’s monthly period. 

Getting sick whilst traveling: “Stress can also include the stress of illness. You’re being exposed to different kinds of viruses and bacteria than what you’re used to,” says Dr. Moore.

In this way, your body is working hard to fight off the sickness, possibly affecting your period. 

According to Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a practicing gynecologist:

“With travel comes changes in general habits, such as diet, sleep, hydration, or exercise. All of which have an influence on menstruation.”

To back up Dr. Dweck’s quote, Dr. Moore says:

“You may be eating different foods, drinking different water, and your regular habits of exercise and nutrition can be totally off.”

How To Manage Your Period While Traveling 

Plan ahead: you could try to slowly change your sleeping and eating routine to that of the destination you’re traveling to before you leave.

Try to stick to your usual routine: once you’ve arrived at your destination, try to stick to your usual routine as much as you can. You could plan your meals according to your home eating schedule, and if you’re an active person, try to walk, run, or hit the gym. 

Use natural sleeping aids: you could make use of natural herbs such as certain teas, essential oils, special pillows, or a certain type of music or white noise that may help you to fall asleep easier.

Be prepared with menstrual products & pain relief methods: if your period is early or late, you surely would appreciate it if you were prepared. Having your chosen menstrual product with you at all times can be helpful. 

Additionally, if you’re prone to taking an OTC pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, having that on-hand will be useful too—especially if you’re in a location where you do not know where to get your period essentials. 

So, while you don’t have much control over when your period starts, there are a variety of things you can do that may help keep it regular whilst traveling.

And sure, you may be feeling anxious if your period is late. If so, taking a pregnancy test for peace of mind could be a great idea. 

But bear in mind that traveling can indeed affect when your period starts, so try to relax and enjoy your time away—you deserve a lovely getaway

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