It’s no secret that breathing in polluted air can wreak havoc on your health. But while we’ve always been aware of its impact on our lungs, it turns out air quality can affect us in other ways, too. New evidence suggests that air pollution can actually interfere with women’s menstrual cycles.
A study published on January 25th in the journal Human Reproduction tracks nearly 35,000 women through high school and into adulthood. The results found that when women were exposed to high concentrations of air pollution as teenagers, they were more likely to experience irregular periods. The study also reported that these same women were more likely to have cycles that took longer to become regular.
It may seem weird to think that air pollution can affect your reproductive system, but there is a logical explanation. According to the study, inhaling pollutants can result in hormonal changes, which can in turn affect your menstrual cycle. Previous studies have also suggested that pollution can interfere with women’s hormones. A July 2017 study of 133 women in Poland found that exposure to multiple air pollutants can decrease the length of your menstrual cycle.
And climate change is linked to an increase in air pollution, meaning that more people could experience these effects in the coming years.
The environment isn’t the only factor that can interfere with your time of the month. Traveling can mess with your period, too — especially if you’re crossing different time zones. And things like stress and medication can cause your period to come early.
Periods are enough of a pain without external forces causing them to change. But the results of this study are a sobering reminder that the condition of the environment affects us in real, tangible ways. We need to work to take better care of our planet — it’s a matter of health.