Purpose: To examine the influence of depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and psychotropic medication use on prospectively assessed menstrual cycle regularity and length.
Participants and methods: Data were obtained from Pregnancy Study Online, a prospective cohort study of pregnancy planners from North America. At baseline, women reported information on demographics, anthropometrics, lifestyle, and medical history, including their use of psychotropic medications. They also completed the Major Depression Inventory and the Perceived Stress Scale. Every 8 weeks for up to 12 months or until conception, women completed follow-up questionnaires to assess changes in psychotropic medication use, perceived stress, and menstrual cycle characteristics (ie, cycle regularity and length). Women who completed at least one follow-up questionnaire from 2013 to 2018 (n=3,346) were included in the primary analyses. A total of 5,439 women were included in secondary analyses utilizing baseline data only. Primary analyses estimated prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% CIs using log-binomial regression models.
Results: Women with severe depressive symptoms at baseline, regardless of psychotropic medication use, had an 80% greater prevalence of irregular cycles during follow-up than women with no or low depressive symptoms (PR =1.80, 95% CI =1.48-2.19). Perceived stress was also associated with the prevalence of irregular cycles during follow-up (PR =1.33, 95% CI =1.14-1.55). Psychotropic medication use was not appreciably associated with menstrual characteristics after controlling for history of diagnosed depression and/or anxiety. Depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and psychotropic medication use showed little association with menstrual cycle length.
Conclusion: Higher levels of depressive symptoms and perceived stress were associated with irregular menstrual cycles, but not appreciably associated with menstrual cycle length. Use of psychotropic medications was not meaningfully associated with cycle regularity or length.
Keywords: depression; menstrual cycle irregularity; perceived stress; psychotropic medication.