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How do menstrual cycles impact our mood?

Every month, many women or people with ovaries go through a hormonal dance that influences more than just their fertility. Menstrual cycles, with their complex hormonal fluctuations , play a significant role in how women feel, perceive and respond to their daily environments. For some, these changes are subtle, barely noticeable. For others, they run deep, influencing every aspect of their life, from their physical energy to their emotional state. So how do these menstrual cycles shape our mood? And why is this experience so variable from one woman to another? Let's explore the impact of the menstrual cycle on our emotional well-being in this article.

The menstrual phase (duration 3 to 7 days): from sadness to introspection

The menstrual phase marks the start of a new menstrual cycle. In the absence of fertilization and implantation of an egg , high levels of progesterone and estrogen decrease, signaling to the uterus that there is no need to keep the uterine lining prepared for possible pregnancy. As a result, this lining, called the endometrium, is expelled from the body in the form of menstruation. This natural process is accompanied by uterine contractions that help release tissue and blood, which can sometimes cause menstrual pain , or dysmenorrhea.

Impact of the menstrual phase on mood

The menstrual phase, with its hormonal changes, can affect mood in many different ways.

Decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone can lead to feelings of fatigue and weariness. For some women, this manifests as an increased need for rest or sleep.

Some may feel a form of melancholy, sadness, or have a depressed mood during this phase, although the exact reason remains debated. It's possible that hormonal fluctuations affect the brain's neurotransmitters related to mood.

This period can also be seen as a time of reflection, where some menstruating people feel more introspective and contemplative . It can be a special time for intimacy with yourself, away from external distractions.

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The follicular phase (days 1 to 14): increase in well-being

The follicular phase is the first stage of the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle. It begins on the first day of menstruation, when hormone levels are at their lowest, and ends with ovulation. During this phase, several small follicles (small fluid-filled pockets containing eggs) begin to develop in the ovaries. Each follicle contains an oocyte (or egg cell). Under the effect of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), one of these follicles will become dominant and continue to grow, while the others will regress.

As follicles grow, they produce estrogen, leading to a gradual increase of this hormone in the body. The role of estrogens is to prepare the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for possible implantation of the embryo.


Impact of the follicular phase on mood

Estrogen, often called “feel good hormones,” has a significant impact on mood. During the early follicular phase, as menstruation begins, some women may still experience vestiges of premenstrual symptoms. However, as estrogen levels increase, many of these symptoms improve.

The increase in estrogen influences the brain's reward system , which can lead to increased energy, increased self-confidence, and an overall improvement in mood. It is common to feel more alert, optimistic, and motivated during this phase . Cognitive abilities, such as concentration and creativity, can also be strengthened. Additionally, the surge in estrogen can lead to a feeling of social openness , making people more likely to seek out social interactions and be receptive to new experiences.


The ovulation phase (14th day): increased libido, self-confidence and greater sensitivity

Ovulation is the central event of the menstrual cycle and usually occurs around the 14th day of a 28-day cycle, although this date and duration can vary between women and menstrual cycles. to the other . Under the influence of estrogen, the brain releases a large amount of another hormone called LH ( luteinizing hormone ), which causes the dominant follicle to rupture. It is this event which allows the mature oocyte, contained inside the follicle, to be released. Once in the fallopian tube, the egg is ready to be fertilized for a short period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours.

Along with this rise in estrogen, there is also a slight increase in testosterone. Although this hormone is usually associated with men, it also plays a crucial role in female health and sexuality.


Impact of ovulation on mood

Increasing estrogen and testosterone levels during ovulation can have remarkable effects on mood and behavior.

Testosterone, often associated with libido, experiences a slight spike during ovulation, which can lead to increased sexual desire in menstruating people. These hormones can also increase feelings of self-confidence, energy and well-being. This is why many people feel more alert, energetic and confident during this time.

It can also cause greater emotional sensitivity in some individuals. However, this phase is not without challenges. The surge of hormones can also make some women more sensitive or emotionally reactive . They may feel more empathetic, intuitive, or even vulnerable. Some may have more intense reactions to situations or events that, under other circumstances, would have been perceived as less significant.

These mood swings , while potentially destabilizing, are a natural response to hormonal changes occurring in the body.

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The key role of hormones in the menstrual cycle >


The luteal phase (days 15 to 28): from serenity to emotional storm

After ovulation, the ruptured follicle transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum. This structure mainly releases progesterone and, to a lesser extent, estrogen. These hormones prepare the endometrium (the uterine lining) to accommodate a possible embryo in the event of fertilization of the egg. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum disintegrates and progesterone and estrogen levels begin to fall, marking the end of the luteal phase and the approach of menstruation.


Impact of the luteal phase on mood

The luteal phase is like an emotional journey, where the beginning is often peaceful but can become more tumultuous as it progresses.

Why is it often said that we are in a bad mood before our period? It's simple ! At the start of the luteal phase, during the first post-ovulatory days, the still high levels of estrogen combined with the surge in progesterone can provide a feeling of calm, relaxation and serenity . This is a time when many menstruators feel balanced and in harmony with themselves.

As the luteal phase progresses and estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, mood can become more unstable, known as “mood swings” . Feelings of irritability, anxiety, fatigue, increased sensitivity, or even sadness are commonly reported. It is during this period that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can manifest. PMS is a set of physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that can vary in intensity and affect women a few days before the arrival of their period. It is important to note that the severity and nature of symptoms can vary greatly between women.

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The impact of menstrual cycle hormones on our mood varies from person to person

It's important to note that not all menstruating people necessarily experience mood fluctuations related to their menstrual cycle. Although many may experience emotional changes at different times in their cycle, the intensity, nature and even presence of these changes vary greatly from woman to woman and that's ok!

Every menstruator experiences their menstrual cycle differently due to many factors, whether biological, psychological or environmental.

Biological differences:

  • Hormonal Variability: Although all women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their cycle, the absolute levels of these hormones and the speed of their changes can vary greatly from one woman to another.
  • Hormonal sensitivity: Some are more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and therefore may experience more intense or subtle mood changes.
  • Medical Surditions: Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or other hormonal imbalances can influence how a woman feels about her cycle.

Psychological factors:

  • Mental health history: Menstruating people with a history of mood disorders like depression or anxiety may experience exacerbated symptoms during certain phases of their cycle.
  • Resilience: How a woman handles stress and emotional changes can influence how she feels about her cycle.

Environmental factors:

  • Diet and exercise: Diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits can influence hormonal balance and, therefore, mood.
  • Stress: High levels of stress or traumatic events can exacerbate symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle.

Genetic factors:

Some researchers suggest that there may be a genetic component that determines how a woman responds to hormonal fluctuations in her cycle.

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