Having mood swings before your periods to having cramps during your period, all happen because of hormonal changes during periods. Here’s how it happens and what you can do.

Does your mood fluctuate throughout your periods? Is it difficult to keep up with the ebb and flow of your emotions during periods? A woman goes through regular, natural changes in her body throughout her menstrual cycle. The first day of your period marks the beginning of your menstrual cycle and the last day marks the end. You may experience a series of changes in your body and mind, which might make you curious about how it happens. So, let’s dig deeper into the common hormonal changes during periods that you need to know about.

Can periods cause hormonal changes?

There is a relation between your menstrual cycle and hormonal changes in the body. The menstrual cycle involves complex interactions between hormones, which can lead to various physiological and emotional effects on the body and mind, explains Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, and Fertility Specialist Dr Nirmala M. Your menstrual cycle, in fact, affects your hormones in more ways than one, at different phases, which include the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase.

A woman holding a period calendar for period-friendly world
Know how your periods affect your hormones. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Your hormones are impacted throughout these stages by periods. For example, the progesterone hormone (which is vital for uterine lining maintenance in case of a potential pregnancy) can cause premenstrual syndrome-like symptoms, such as irritation or depression, despite the calming effect on the body, attributed to it. Likewise, an increase in estrogen during the follicular phase allows the uterine lining to be repaired post-menstruation, while also facilitating mood regulation and improving skin health and bone density. Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle facilitate reproductive health and help manage mood swings, adds the expert. They are, therefore, necessary and it is vital to understand them.

Stages of the menstrual cycle

Your period affects your hormones through every phase of your menstrual cycle. It is crucial to understand the different stages of your menstrual cycle and how it can affect your hormones. Oestrogen and progesterone are two hormones at play when it comes to your menstrual cycle. It acts on the body, emotions, and reproductive cycle of the woman, across the four stages of the menstrual cycle which include:

1. Menstrual phase

This is the first stage of the menstrual cycle and this is the time when you get your period. It starts when an egg from the previous cycle is not fertilized. The levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone may also drop. Both these hormones work together and cause thickening of the uterine wall for repair. Since pregnancy doesn’t take place, this lining is shed through the vagina during this phase. Your body releases a combination of blood, mucus, and tissue from your uterus. You may experience mood swings during this phase of the menstrual cycle.

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2. Follicular phase

This phase starts with the menstrual phase, on the first day of your period, and ends when you ovulate. This stage begins when your pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is responsible for stimulating your ovaries and producing 5-20 small sacs called follicles, each of which contains an immature egg. The healthiest of these eggs mature and cause period. The average follicular phase ranges from 11 and 27 days, depending on your menstrual cycle. In the case of pregnancy, the ovarian follicles produce Oestrogen in the follicular phase and enable the thickening of the uterine wall to support the pregnancy.

Also Read: Can you get pregnant during periods?

3. Ovulation phase

Your pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) in response to the rising oestrogen levels produced during the follicular phase. This is the beginning of your ovulation period. Ovulation is the period when an ovary produces a developed egg. The eggs then travel down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. This is the time when you have the highest chance of getting pregnant. If you notice a little increase in the body’s temperature or an egg white discharge, this could be a sign that you are ovulating. If your cycle lasts 28 days, ovulation occurs around day 14.

4. Luteal phase

The luteal phase occurs right after the ovulation phase. The main purpose of this phase is to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy. During this phase, an egg passes from your ovary to your uterus via your fallopian tube. If sperm fertilizes that egg is implanted into your uterine lining, which leads to pregnancy. If the egg does not fertilise, you will not get pregnant and your period will come. This phase lasts for about 14 days and ends when you get your period. This is the phase where you experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Symptoms of PMS include:

* Bloating
* Headache
* Changes in mood
* Cravings
* Sleep problems
* Weight gain
* Headache
* Swollen or tender breasts, or pain
* Changes in sexual desire

food cravings while on period
You may have food cravings during luteal phase of your period cycle. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Hormonal changes during each phase of your menstrual cycle

The main hormones at play during each of your phases of the menstrual cycle are oestrogen and progesterone. In some phases, some other hormones such as luteinizing hormone may also make some changes. Here are the hormonal changes you may experience at every menstrual stage:

1. To begin with, both progesterone and oestrogen act together and cause thickening of the uterine wall for repair, potential pregnancies, or expulsion of unused uterine lining. This may cause a change in your temperament.

2. During the menstrual period phase, both these hormones create contractions in the uterine walls to expel the unused lining. In case a pregnancy is to be produced and directed, the ovarian follicles produce Oestrogen in the follicular phase and enable the thickening of the uterine wall to support the pregnancy.

3. In the ovulation phase, oestrogen becomes the main hormone that causes the mood and libido of the woman to peak, in synchronization with the level of fertility.

4. The luteal phase is the stage at which both the hormones are at rest. However, this is the phase where you may experience premenstrual syndrome.

Do hormonal changes during periods affect daily life?

Hormonal changes that occur during different stages of menstrual cycle may vary. They can lead to several physical, emotional, and behavioural changes. These include:

* Changes in appetite are common, as hormonal fluctuations can cause hunger cravings.
* Social withdrawal is also a common after-effect of hormonal changes during periods.
* Mood swings can cause anxiety and depression, due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone.
* Physically, one may experience fatigue and bloating which hamper daily life.

These changes generally occur due to the changing estrogen and progesterone levels in the body.

Also Read: Severe menstrual cramps are not normal! Know 9 reasons why it happens

What is the most common hormonal change that occurs during periods?

One of the most common effects of hormonal changes during periods is mood swings. “Premenstrual syndrome-like symptoms such as irritation, anxiety, and depression are common during the luteal phase, sometime before the menstruation process. Similarly, after ovulation, some women may experience heightened libido and improved mood due to a rise in estrogen. The onset of one’s periods can sometimes be marked by physical discomfort caused by headaches or pain from cramps. All these physical and mood-related changes can be attributed to changes in hormonal levels throughout the cycle,” explains Dr Nirmala.

Mood disorders and schizophrenia
You may experience mood swings at different stages of your menstrual cycle. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Is there a way to control hormonal changes during periods?

While some hormonal changes are inevitable, they can be managed by making some basic lifestyle changes, as suggested by the expert.

1. Regular exercise along with restful sleep can improve one’s mood while also managing rapid fluctuations.
2. A nutritional diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you balance your hormones.
3. Increase your water intake to reduce certain symptoms of hormonal fluctuations, such as bloating and fatigue.
4. In severe cases medical intervention such as through SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which can be used to manage symptoms related to PMS and PMDD) can be followed.
5. Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.

Also Read: 5 things to avoid in summer to maintain hormonal balance

These are some changes you can make in your routine. However, you must talk to your healthcare provider if you experience extreme hormonal changes during periods that make it difficult for you to carry out your daily activities.

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