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How the menstrual cycle impacts your mood

By Bonnie Azoulay, Contributing writer

More often than not, menstruation gets a bad rap. We often hear, “Are you PMSing?” or “Do you have your period?” as insults. Because of these catch-all phrases, periods have become synonymous with moodiness and carry a harmful stigma. While you can develop mood swings before or during your period, there’s much more to this side effect than meets the eye.

What causes mood swings during your menstrual cycle?

PMS (premenstrual syndrome), which describes symptoms including mood swings and irritability, starts about a week before your period and generally subsides about four days after the first day of your period. PMS symptoms can occur up to 14 days before menstruation, which is when your body releases an egg, causing estrogen and progesterone levels to drop. This hormonal shift can cause your serotonin levels to drop and bring about feelings of sadness and irritability. According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health in 2011, mood swings are the most common symptom of menstruation. 

How to manage mood swings

When it comes to managing PMS mood swings, no one remedy fits all. Regulating your mood when you’re experiencing PMS symptoms is similar to how you’d regulate your mood any time of the month. Exercise, nutrition, and supplements can increase your serotonin levels, the key hormone that stabilizes your mood. 

Nutrition: Limit your caffeine intake during your period since it’s known to decrease sleep, which can  increase moodiness. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, calcium such as low-fat milk, yogurt, almonds, and kale have been proven to reduce fatigue and moodiness during PMS. 

Exercise: According to a 2019 study published in The Journal of Education and Health Promotion, aerobic exercise and yoga movements are effective in treating PMS symptoms, like improving mood and behavior. Any exercise that gets your heart rate up will release endorphins (body chemicals that relieve stress and pain) and may counteract the hormone changes induced by PMS. Additionally, the Office of Women’s Health encourages physical activity during your menstrual cycle to help you feel better emotionally and physically.

When should mood swings be addressed by a doctor?

Experiencing mood swings is the most common PMS symptom, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. But if you’re not feeling like yourself  for a significant amount of time after your period, then you may want to consult with your provider. There are many ways to treat symptoms of PMS including SSRIs and the combination birth control pill. 

As we mentioned, periods have been associated with mood swings, but they’re not always the source of those feelings. You deserve to get the help you need to feel like yourself. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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