There are many reasons why a woman can experience irregular periods. Things like stress, anxiety, and even birth control can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to irregularity. However, according to a new study, the amount of air pollution that teen girls are exposed to may also result in a greater chance of irregular periods, and increase the time it takes for regularity to be reached.
Published in the journal Human Reproduction, the research was conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine. The team looked at health and location data from 34,832 female participants who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study 2, which began in 1989. They compared this information with air pollution levels experienced by the participants when they were teens.
The research also suggests that exposure to air pollution can delay the onset of a girl's first period. Higher levels of total suspended particulate (TSP) were also found to increase levels of the hormone androgen, which is often referred to as a male sex hormone, but actually occurs naturally in women. Excess levels of this hormone can disrupt the menstrual cycle.
The results showed that for every 45 μg/m3 increase in TSP exposure, girls were 8 percent more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles. Meanwhile, the researchers also found that for every 45 μg/m3 TSP increase, teenage girls were 11 percent more likely to experience irregular periods combined with excess androgen levels.
Previous research has already shown that air pollution can cause all sorts of health problems, from infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome to metabolic syndrome and decreased lung function. Now it seems that the menstrual cycle can be affected too.
"While air pollution exposures have been linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, this study suggests there may be other systems, such as the reproductive endocrine system, that are affected as well," said Dr Shruthi Mahalingaiah, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine and an author of the study, in a statement.
It is becoming more and more apparent that air pollution affects our bodies in many different, and often unexpected ways. Reducing this pollution is of utmost importance.