Does Shift Work Affect Your Period? Tips for Staying Regular

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Ladies, as a shift worker, what does the timing of your menstrual cycle look like? Does it come every 28 days on the dot or is it more random than a rotating shift workers schedule? I’ve always wanted to blame my irregularity in the period department on shift work, but is it really the culprit?

Female shift workers may notice irregularities in their menstrual cycle mainly due to the effects of circadian rhythm disruption. Lack of sleep, coupled with long hours and demanding work stresses the body, altering the way it produces important reproductive hormones, causing period inconsistencies.

I wanted to create this article to help out my fellow shift working sisters to make you understand – you are not alone. I will dive into exploring how shift work messes with our periods, why rotating shift workers may see more irregularity than most and how we can take back control of our lady bits and natures cycle.

Does Shift Work Affect Your Period?

Yes, it can.

But like everything in life, it’s not a guarantee. Just because you signed up for a shift working gig doesn’t mean your periods will be irregular.

But what is an irregular cycle? Let’s get the terminology right first.

“A cycle is considered clinically irregular when the majority of cycles in the previous six months are out of range”. (source)

But what is a normal range? A typical cycle length ranges between 24 to 38 days and is counted from the first day of your period until the day before your next period starts.

So now we understand what makes a cycle irregular, it seems shift work is linked to irregular periods for the following reasons:

Working Against Our Body Clock

When we work irregular schedules, particularly overnight and rotating shifts, we are working against what our brains accept as normal.

This annoys our circadian rhythm (body clock) causing our hormones, particularly the reproductive ones like estrogen and testosterone to go a little crazy.

Rotating Shift Work

According to the research, women who work a rotating shift work roster of more than 20 months experienced greater irregularity with their period.

Our hormones are trying to find balance and consistency but our often manic roster doesn’t allow for this causing irregularity.

Rotating shift work can make our periods longer, more irregular with a decrease or increase in cycle length from under 21 or over 35 days. (1)

OCP, pads and tampons sitting on toilet seat | Does shift work affect your period?
Please share with your lady shift working friends

Stressed Due to Not Enough Sleep

When we work against our body clock we can get really tired, often not getting the 7-9 hours sleep recommended from the sleep professionals. (source)

This causes our body to suffer from undue stress which releases hormones like cortisol and will also impact your melatonin levels – the no.1 sleep hormone.

Through throwing all of your bodies hormones out of order, this will see an impact on your ovulation and menstruation.

VIDEO – Are Night Shifts Bad For You? Stop Them Ruining Your Health

Working a Physically Demanding Job

Working a physically demanding job requiring excessive bending, pushing, pulling and prolonged standing has also been linked to irregular periods. Researchers think this could be due to the cortisol stress point I made earlier. (source)

Interestingly, studies also suggest that women working the day shift were less exposed to these movements than those who worked other shifts such as night. Take that as you will…

Long Hours

Long hours have also been linked to irregular periods again potentially due to stress on the body.

Women working over 41 hours per week have been linked to more irregular periods than those who worked fewer hours per week (source)

“Shift work was modestly associated with menstrual function, with possible implications for fertility and other cycle-related aspects of women’s health”


Can Shift Work Impact Fertility?

Research is suggesting that if you don’t get enough sleep and don’t treat your body like a temple, particularly if you work shift work, then yes it can impact your fertility in a negative way.

One study in particular, said “the length and pattern of the menstrual cycle have been considered a marker for female reproductive health.”

But why is this exactly?

Well, it’s similar to the reasons we gave in the above section:

Poor sleep due to working a schedule that goes against our body clock is a BIG factor.

Not only are our reproductive hormones trying to find balance but our sleep hormones are confused too.

Our main sleep hormone melatonin is confused about the role it is supposed to play causing stress and poor sleep.

Melatonin REALLY LOVES darkness and we are often trying to sleep when it’s light. We can make the whole sleeping thing a complicated mess really.

Heavy Lifting

Heavy lifting has been linked to a pooer egg quality which is exacerbated when working nights and rotating shift work

“Women who were overweight (BMI of 25 and above) and whose job was physically demanding also had fewer mature eggs than those of the same weight who didn’t have to do any heavy lifting at work”


Being Overweight Or Underweight

Being on either side of the healthy weight range can change the amount of estrogen our body produces.

In overweight females, there is an increased level of estrogen present, which can alter the way our ovaries release eggs. It also impacts on our insulin levels which can interfere with our menstrual cycle. (source)Opens in a new tab.

Whereas the opposite is happening when being underweight.

We need a certain level of estrogen to build our uterine lining and have a period and for underweight females, there is often not enough. This leads to females who are underweight not experiencing a period regularly.

It’s good to remember we need estrogen for other things too like bone health and to support our emotional well-being. (source)

Tampons on a blue background
I hope nobody is using these later!

How Can You Maintain a Regular Period and Be a Shift Worker?

To get things back on track in the period department there are a few simple and not so simple things we can do. Let’s start with the easy ones:

Prioritize Your Sleep

Here are 4 areas to focus on:

1. When on night shift, try to go to sleep within 30minutes – 1 hour of the shift finishing

Don’t put on a full-length movie, clean the house or take the dog for a walk longer than 15 minutes. Be strict with yourself. If you have kids, they are of course priority but you need to look after yourself too.

Some people like to workout after a night shift which is totally fine, as we talk about in this post, but just make sure your sleep is not compromised because of it.

2. Blackout your bedroom

Your goal should be to create 100% darkness in your bedroom. Use blackout blinds, blue light blocking glasses and even an eye mask to block out any remaining light sneaking in through the blinds cracks.

Here are our recommended blue light blocking glasses from Swanwick Sleep (our #1 sleep aid) and here is a link to our shift work tools page where you can check out our favorite eye masks and blackout blinds.

We also wrote an entire comparison review about eye masks which you can check out here. Most of the varieties listed are under $10 and will do an amazing job.

emma wearing swannies
Check out my blue light blocking glasses here – they have saved my butt and finally allowed me to fall to sleep quickly!

3. Avoid stimulating foods and drinks before bed

Avoid caffeine 5-6 hours before bed and stay away from the greasy, fatty stuff like pizza. Even if there is tempting leftover pizza in the fridge!

The nausea and bloating you’ll feel is awful, making sleep super uncomfortable. This paired with period pain is NOT a good combination.

Instead, take a look at a post titled, What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift? which will give you some great meal and snack ideas to try. Plenty of the food recommendations we give are naturally high in melatonin which also helps you stay friends with your sleep hormone.

You can enjoy these foods if you work the 1st and 2nd shift too…

Also, if you are struggling to put down the coffee before bed, we wrote an entire post, jam-packed with alternative delicious options you need to try. Check it out here.

Related posts to prioritizing sleep:

Take Control of Your Roster

Are you able to request your roster in advance?

Is there an ability to swap shifts with another co-worker?

Are you able to have an honest discussion with your roster manager about creating consistency within your shifts?

If you do, manipulate it to suit you.

Here are some roster tips I use regularly to stop my period going haywire.

  • Work 3-5 night shifts in a row rather than a random single night shifts
  • Minimize working the 2nd/late shift followed immediately by a 1st/early shift. This is often referred to in Australia as a “late/early.”
  • Request at least 2 days off after your final night shift
  • If there is a “busy” shift within the week at your particular workplace, try and request to do this every few weeks. Don’t get stuck with this every single week because you were too slow to request.
  • If you work a rotating roster, can you complete a few morning shifts in a row, followed by a few afternoon shifts rather then jumping back and forth? Working in a clockwise direction is best.

If you need more roster tips here are a few posts we published which can help:

Avoid Heavy Lifting Where Possible

While I don’t know exactly what each of you do in a normal working day, I think we all can (probably) be smarter with the way we carry, pick up heavy items and use our body weight.

  • Make sure you are utilizing “no lift” or “safe lift” principles every single day while at work and at home. Don’t carry more than you need to and instead use a trolley (if available).
  • If you are a nurse, physiotherapist, doctor or paramedic, don’t turn or roll a heavier set, immobile patient by yourself because you can’t find somebody to help you. I know it’s frustrating because you’re “wasting time”, but looking for help will save you back pain and will potentially regulate your periods too.
  • Position your body in a way you are comfortable and not straining yourself. Think about the work you do and how you can make it more comfortable. Can you use a trolley, bed mechanics or a pulley system to make the job easier?
  • When picking up a box, always bend your knees
  • Don’t carry ALL the grocery bags from the car into the house in one go. I know you are doing this because I do too… I am certain that carrying 1-2 extra loads into the house will not ruin your day.
Find a trolley and use it, even if it takes a little longer

And now we’ve just given you the 4 simple areas, it’s time for the not so simple things that will help significantly:

#1 – Controlling Your Stress

I hate when people say “you need to just stop stressing.” I don’t get much benefit from this direct guidance because it doesn’t answer the how…

So instead, here are four ways to hopefully decrease the stress in your life which has worked wonders for me as an ER nurse.

#2 – Be Content That Your Best Is Enough

If you work your little butt off at work (and at home) stop thinking you can do more. Be proud of what you did rather than the things you didn’t get to.

The beauty of shift work is that most of our jobs are 24 hours in nature. So hand that “thing” over and start again tomorrow.

Also, be very careful picking up extra shifts and volunteering to complete over time. I know the money can very tempting but weigh up the pros and cons (not forgetting about your period) before simply saying yes.

#3 – Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Some shift working professions such as those in the service industries are full-on. They are often physically demanding, emotionally draining and mentally exhausting. So, it’s important when it’s appropriate to laugh, joke and remember to have some fun.

As a nurse, my patients used to love a laugh and joke as a distraction to what was really going on!

Learning to relax is also particularly important in your close relationships such as your marriage. The quality time you are spending together may be limited so I encourage you to change your approach.

Once I learned to relax a bit at home with my husband Dan, picking my battles and accepting differences in our opinions, I saw a huge decrease in the arguments and stress.

Related post: Night Shift Is Killing My Marriage. How to Stop It Happening

#4 – Take Regular Breaks

I am all about using the leave you are entitled to.

If you want to save some leave for a big future trip or even your maternity leave then that’s understandable, but don’t be afraid to take even a “weekend” off to do something for you.

Cooking, reading, sitting in the sun, gardening, catching up with friends, exercising or simply chilling out in the hammock in the yard are all positive things.

Plus, the vitamin D from the sun is a great way to re-establish a nice friendship with your girly hormones as this particular vitamin in linked to period regulation (source)

Related post: Shift Work Burnout: Causes, Red Flags and How to Beat It​

[VIDEO] – I wanted to remind you about the power of simple deep breathing exercise and yoga to relieve stress. This video from YouTube is by my favorite online free yoga teacher, “Yoga with Adrienne” and I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Fuel your body with the good stuff and focus on losing excessive body weight.

Healthy, energy-boosting food and drinks, yoga and regular exercise are good places to start.

If you are carrying around some excess weight, now is a great time to make some positive changes, if you’re trying to get your menstrual cycle back on track.

Does Shift Work Make You Fat? 14 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain is a recent post we wrote and I encourage you to check it out.

I am not a huge of “fad diets” as there is always a question of what to do once it’s “done.” But I know some shift workers who have HUGE amounts of success with using the Keto diet and also through intermittent fasting.

We have written specific posts dedicated to both which I encourage you to explore below.

I am also a big advocate for surrounding yourself with good people. Let their positivity and love for life radiate onto you and you’ll start to see the world as a brighter place. This can decrease your stress and hopefully regualte those periods.

Here are some related posts to decrease your stress levels and regulate your periods:

Emma Holding Tootie Fruities | Does Shift Work Affect Your Period? Tips for Staying Regular
The size of this, for example, made me laugh (we don’t have this size in Aus!). Instead of getting mad and stressed out at the amount of sugar inside, we took a photo, made a few jokes and put it back. Don’t buy this by the way – stick to oats!

Does our periods become regular again after stopping shift work?

While I want to say yes, the jury is unfortinatly still out on this one. (source) One study did suggest they didn’t see a change even after two years but the research is minimal in this area. You’ll be the best judge here!

Consider Changing/Modifying Your Job

I laugh when I read this suggestion because, for most of us, this is simply not possible.

However, if you are able to decrease the amount of time you’re working against your body clock the better you’ll be. In more areas than just your period! Find our what else here.

If an opportunity arises to try out a 9-5 position or even spending some time on only the 1st shift, it should be worth considering.

You never know the impact this small, seemingly insignificant change can have on your periods and fertility.

What Else Messes With Our Periods?

It’s interesting to know what else can impact our periods to find a cause to our own dilemmas. Some of these I thought were pretty interesting.

  • Excessive exercise.
    A combination of low body fat and rigorous movement puts stress on our body telling your reproductive organs to stop producing hormones related to our menstrual cycle. (source) While this can seem like a good thing it’s actually pretty dangerous.
  • Endometriosis.
    Endometriosis affects 1 in 10Opens in a new tab. women of reproductive age and is where the tissue that normally lines your uterus grows outside the uterus. (source)Opens in a new tab. I’m sure I don’t have to tell those of you who suffer from endometriosis that the muscle cramps are excruciating.
  • Taking prescription drugs.
    Medications which contain hormones, blood thinners, steroids and antipsychotics (which release a hormone, dopamine) can all affect your period. Most of these are totally safe but you should gain advice from your doctor if you’re seeing and feeling recurring issues in your menstrual cycle.
  • Chronic disease.
    Certain types of cancers like cervical and endometrial cancer can cause changes to your menstrual cycle, “along with bleeding between periods or heavy periods”. Remember to seek advice from your doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
  • The pill.
    My periods were totally and utterly out of whack until I started taking the pill. I now have a nice 28 day period on the dot (when I remember to take it on time!) but it took MONTHS to get to this point. If you are new to the pill, it can take 2-3 months for your body to adjust. So don’t freak out if you see some spotting and again, always consult your doctor if you are concerned.
OCP | Does Shift Work Affect Your Period? Tips for Staying Regular
This is the 5th OCP (oral contraceptive pill) I’ve tried and I’ve FINALLY found one which works for me.

Can night shift cause miss periods?

Yes. But there is a ton of other reasons along with the most obvious being pregnancy. Being on the pill, chroninc disease, early peri-menopause, thyroid issues and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are some other key causes to missing a period (source)

Recommended Products To Regulate Your Menstrual Cycle

Reusable Menstrual cups

While they are a larger financial investment to begin with over tampons or pads, they save on the environment, your time and are just SO much nicer than tampons.

I have chosen to recommend these two because the positive reviews are insane and go well beyond my personal recommendation. They are both available via by clicking on the images below.

Menstrual Cup Wash

Better Than Diva Menstrual Cup WashOpens in a new tab.. This product is from Amazon and works amazingly well! Some users even said it helped with discoloration in the cup which is a bonus.

PH Feminine Wash

Girls, stop using the regular bar of soap and average body wash to clean your lady bits.

These are NOT Ph friendly. We have very sensitive parts down below and they need special attention with targeted ingredients.

I have used these two washes and really like both of them equally. They are not expensive and worth adding to your Amazon cart in my opinion. Vagisil Odor Block Daily Intimate Vaginal WashOpens in a new tab. and the Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin (2 pack). I have given links to the bigger, bonus size packs to save you some money in the long run.

If you are interested to learn more about the proper skin care routine after nights to protect your skin, check out this post we wrote titled, Best Skin Care Regimen and Products for Night Shift Workers

Period Tracker App

It’s important to track where you are now and to see if the changes you make in the future have had any difference. This is a great period tracker (and it’s free!) but here is also a list of other period tracker apps you could try.


In summary, does Shift Work Affect Your Period? Shift working females can, unfortunately, suffer from irregularity in regards to their period. This is mainly due to disruption of sleep which triggers stress and our hormones to work differently.

If we take care of our bodies through adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet and finding ways to de-stress, it can lead to regularity and create less of a guessing game to if and when your period is coming.

Do you have issues with your “time of the month” too?


Emma signature |

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Women touch stomach | Does shift work affect your period?

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

2 thoughts on “Does Shift Work Affect Your Period? Tips for Staying Regular

  1. Hi I just found your page. I just turned 30 and for the last 5 years I was working nights at my local grocery store(Safeway). I also just got off of nights and switched to working days in the produce area. I’m on my first period since the change. When it started, I had no energy and wasn’t feeling well. Does the change in work hours affect my period symptoms? I had to call in for one day because I still wasn’t feeling well. I know my body is still getting used to the different schedule but I was wondering how it affects my period and/or symptoms? Thankyou for taking time in reading this and hopefully responding. Thankyou and have a good rest of your day/night

    1. Hi Caitlin,

      Thanks for your honesty and for leaving a comment.
      From personal experience, I would say yes. I am not a doctor but from how I understand it, is your body is stressed as you adjust to a new sleeping/eating routine. I would recommend if your symptoms worsening or even simply continue is to be reviewed by your doctor and even have some blood tests done. Just to make sure there is nothing underlying causing your grief.
      Take care and good luck.

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