Periods & Mental Health: Effects of Hormonal Changes on Emotions

Reasons for Being in a Good Mood at the Start of the Period Cycle

You may be acquainted with PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), which is a set of symptoms that may occur in the days that lead up to your period. That said, have you noticed that after your period cycle begins, the “clouds” begin to fade away, and you feel much better suddenly?

This is not merely your mind playing tricks on you. There is evidence that has proven that after your period begins your mood improves. Hormones and mood have a clear cause and effect.

It all comes down to hormones and how their levels fluctuate once your period cycle commences. Let’s take a closer look at hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, and how they can have an impact on your mood.

The Basics of Period Cycle

Your period cycle is controlled by two primary sex hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. The levels of these hormones tend to fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle, with oestrogen levels increasing in the first half and peaking at the time of ovulation and progesterone levels increasing in the second half and peaking just before the onset of your period.

  • The first phase of your menstrual cycle is known as the follicular phase as this is when the follicle that contains the egg or ovum develops.
  • The second phase is known as the luteal phase. Here, the egg is released, and the follicle transforms into a corpus luteum, which eventually produces both progesterone and oestrogen.

Fluctuation of the levels of these hormones will eventually have an impact on how you feel physically as well as emotionally. The balance between these two hormones could also influence your mood.

Ujaas, a menstrual health and menstrual hygiene initiative of Aditya Birla Education Trust (ABET), aims to spread awareness about periods among young adolescent girls in the rural regions of India.

Menstrual Mood Swings During The Period Cycle

Because everyone is different and hormonal changes affect different individuals differently, it is no surprise that some women may feel good at the onset of the menstrual cycle whereas others take a little longer to feel much better.

Some women notice an immediate change at the onset of their periods, whereas others are required to wait for a few more days for the mood-enhancing effects of oestrogen to start working. That said, some just report feeling “not so great” during the entire menstrual cycle.

It is also important to note that not everyone experiences PMS, and not everyone who has PMS experiences the same symptoms.

The same holds for PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).

Ujaas, the menstrual health and menstrual hygiene initiative of ABET, was founded to put an end to the stigma surrounding periods as well as to eliminate period shame and related taboos.

Level of Hormones During Menstrual Cycle

You are surely not alone if you are someone who generally feels quite good during your menstrual cycle or right after its onset. The reason for this can be attributed to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. When hormonal levels rise during the follicular phase, it can positively affect your mood.

In contrast, changes in levels of oestrogen and progesterone can produce the opposite effect. Let’s take an in-depth look at hormone changes during this period and their effects on your mood.

1. The Follicular Phase (Mood Enhancer)

During this phase, your mood tends to be lighter, and you have a burst of energy. It usually lasts around 2 weeks until ovulation.

Day 1 of this phase is the first day of your menstruation. Therefore, although oestrogen levels are low at the beginning of your period, they do not stay there for long. Oestrogen levels begin to increase as the follicular phase progresses. Oestrogen (along with follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH) is needed to successfully develop the follicle that contains the egg and thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for the successful implantation of a fertilised egg.

It might take a few days, but common symptoms of PMS (such as irritability and low mood) begin to dissipate once your period cycle starts. By the time your menstruation ends, you will surely feel happier and more social.

One potential reason is that oestrogen is linked to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating your mood. As levels of oestrogen rise, so does the production of serotonin, which can lead to feelings of well-being and happiness.

Levels of progesterone remain quite stable and low during this phase until they begin to climb in the luteal phase, which follows ovulation.

These hormone changes during a period will eventually have an impact on your mental health.

2. The Ovulatory Phase is the Midpoint in Your Menstrual Cycle

Ovulation occurs when the ovary releases an egg midway through your menstrual cycle. A sudden, drastic rise in oestrogen levels added to a surge in luteinising hormone (or LH) causes ovulation. This is the precise point in your cycle when your body is prepped for a possibility of pregnancy.

Some women may experience low mood when levels of oestrogen drop down from their pre-ovulation spike, but because it rises again a few days post-ovulation, this feeling is generally short-lived. Such is the level of hormones during the menstrual cycle.

3. Luteal Phase and Low Mood

Post-ovulation, the corpus luteum (which is the temporary endocrine structure that is left behind in the ovary after ovulation) produces progesterone. This phase is known as the luteal phase and lasts for the remainder of the cycle until you get your next period.

Levels of progesterone rise during the first half of the luteal phase to successfully prepare for a probable pregnancy. You may experience better relaxation and optimum sleep because while levels of progesterone increase, levels of calming neurotransmitters in the brain are stimulated.

That said, as you get closer to your menstruation, things could change. If there is no HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (which is a pregnancy hormone) available to keep the corpus luteum from producing progesterone, it will gradually degrade. This eventually triggers the fall of oestrogen and progesterone, which is completely normal if pregnancy does not occur. Levels of serotonin could also decline with a decrease in oestrogen levels. Serotonin has been successfully linked to low moods as well as symptoms of depression.

The above can be successfully characterised by mild shifts in motivation, mood, and energy, which is completely normal.

Menstrual cycle hormone’s moods are thus linked to each other.

The Bottomline

Your period cycle can affect your mood. Hormonal balance is the key when it comes to feeling better before, during, and after your menses. Consuming a balanced diet, getting sufficient sleep, and combatting stress can help. Exercise as well as mood-supporting supplements can be of immense help.