You know the drill: one minute you're feeling on top of the world, and the next, you're crying over a sad dog commercial. As women, our emotions are closely tied to our hormones, which can be influenced by our monthly menstrual cycles. Understanding how our hormonal fluctuations may impact our mood throughout the month can help us be better prepared to manage those feelings when they arise.
The science of ovulation
Throughout the month, women's bodies undergo a hormonal dance that can make us feel like we're on a never-ending rollercoaster. In fact, according to one study, 75–80% of reproductive-age women present with some psychophysiological symptoms during their menstrual cycle.
While often unpleasant, these symptoms can be easily explained by science: At the start of our menstrual cycle, during our period, our estrogen levels are low, which may leave us feeling a bit blue and sluggish.
Then, during ovulation, there is a surge of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which trigger the release of an egg from the ovary. This sharp spike in hormones causes an increase in estrogen levels, boosting our mood, and often, our confidence.
As we near the end of our cycle (a week or so before our period), our progesterone levels begin to rise and may bring with them a host of side effects such as bloating, fatigue, and mood swings. This can make us feel more emotional than usual, and sometimes even trigger unpleasant symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and even depression.
So, can ovulation make you more emotional than usual? The answer is, it depends. One helpful tip is to keep track of your menstrual cycle with a period tracker app or good old-fashioned calendar to stay on top of how your hormones may be affecting your mood throughout the month. Knowing when your period is coming can help you prepare for any potential hormonal fluctuations and give you a sense of control over your emotions so that you can use techniques that work for you to help manage them.
Where does PMS come in?
You may be thinking, “Where does PMS come into all of this?” Whenever we think about mood changes as part of our monthly cycle, the first thing that comes to mind is often PMS. But what is PMS, exactly? “Premenstrual Syndrome” or “PMS” for short, refers to a range of physical and emotional symptoms that many women experience in the days leading up to their period.
The exact cause of PMS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the aforementioned hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms can come in many forms, like bloating, cramps, headaches, and mood swings. Understandably, these symptoms may make you feel more irritable than usual.
However, if you're experiencing significant mood changes that interfere with your daily life, talk to your healthcare provider. They can evaluate you for other conditions, such as PMDD, that can be contributing to your mood changes and recommend treatment options, if necessary.
How to beat the menstrual cycle blues
While we can’t control what our hormones do, there are ways to reduce symptoms by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep.
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Stress-management techniques, like yoga and meditation, can also help. And when all else fails, treat yourself to a little TLC with a bubble bath, a good book, or a Netflix binge.
Lastly, talk to your friends, family, or doctor about what you're going through. Sometimes just venting to someone can make a big difference. And if your mood changes seem out of the ordinary or are getting in the way of your life, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Feel your feelings
As women, there's no denying that, for better or worse, our menstrual cycles can affect our moods. But by taking note of how our hormones impact our emotional well-being, it's possible to feel better prepared to take care of our bodies and minds throughout the month and seek out additional support if necessary.
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, “The 2 Week Wait,” and proud IVF Mom. Her articles have been featured in Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. She has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, and BBC, where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. You can follow her "infertility humor" on Instagram at @jennjaypal