Women’s Emotions, Part 3: The Menstrual Cycle & Mood

Women’s Emotions, Part 3: The Menstrual Cycle & Mood

Today we focus on the menstrual cycle. Sure, all females over age 11 or 12 have one (or at least once had one), but most do not understand how the menstrual cycle actually works and what kind of impact it can have on thinking, mood, and even behavior. It’s important that girls and women are educated about their body’s biochemistry, for it is education that leads to power—in this case, the power to take charge of our emotional well-being.

What is The Menstrual Cycle?

The menstrual cycle is, in a nutshell, “the result of an intricate, precise dialogue between your brain and your ovaries”[1]. Notice that word—brain. If you recall, from Part 1 of this series, emotional health is a combination of one’s brain, hormones, and life experiences. The menstrual cycle is direct communication between your brain and your body, and that communication happens through hormones. Let’s take a look at the hormones in play with the menstrual cycle and how these hormones influence the brain.

Hormones of The Menstrual Cycle

The star of the show is estrogen. Estrogen influences positive moods, thinking, perception, motivation, memory, appetite, sex drive, anxiety and our response to stress. Having plenty of estrogen is what makes us feel relaxed, comfortable, and “well”. Testosterone is also a part of the show, though women have much lower levels of testosterone than men; it affects the limbic brain, which is responsible for primary drives and emotions, including libido. And finally, progesterone. Progesterone has been called “the dysphoric hormone” since it actually works against estrogen, decreasing the number of available estrogen receptors. In fact, evidence shows that in the latter part of the menstrual cycle progesterone may dismantle nerve connections estrogen has set up in the beginning of cycle. Endorphins also play a role, though they’re not hormones. You’re probably most familiar with endorphins from exercise, but these morphine-like petptides are also associated with the menstrual cycle, functioning as neurotransmitters in the brain, affecting appetite, thirst, sex drive, breathing rate, learning, memory, and the regulation of pain.

The 3 Phases of The Menstrual Cycle

Keeping in mind the functions of these hormones (and peptide), let’s look at the three phases of the menstrual cycle: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

During the follicular phase, the first 2 weeks of the cycle, estrogen and testosterone rise and endorphins are released. With increasing levels of these hormones, this is the time when women tend to feel at their best—with clear thinking, easier learning, higher motivation and energy, and more calm emotions. At ovulation, usually day 14 of the cycle, estrogen, endorphins, and testosterone are at their highest levels. They then begin to decrease in the luteal phase.

The luteal phase is the second half of the cycle, when, assuming a woman did not get pregnant, the empty follicle secretes progesterone and estrogen. Not only are the “feel good” hormones receding, but as previously mentioned, progesterone actually dismantles estrogen receptors. (No wonder most women experience declining moods and thinking during the second half of the cycle). Estrogen makes one more attempt to climb after its first drop on day 14, but falls a second time (and is at its lowest) in the last, or premenstrual, week. This is why many women experience Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) 3-7 days before they start their period.

So, what does this all mean?

First, there are actually two drops in estrogen in the menstrual cycle. The first drop sets the stage for the impact on the brain of the second drop.

Second, each decrease in estrogen leads to what is known as an estrogen withdrawal state, and estrogen withdrawal can feel like coming off a drug. If you recall from Part 1, estrogen is a precursor to the neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, that make us feel “well”. The two major shifts in hormones during the last weeks of the menstrual cycle literally alter the signals in the nerve pathways in the brain and can lead to alterations in mood, due to the depletion of serotonin from estrogen withdrawal. (Serotonin depletion is most often associated with Depression).

Third, (and pay attention here) research shows it isn’t the levels of hormones in a woman’s body that impacts her mood as much as how sensitive her brain is to these shifts in hormones. “…It is the particular combination of a woman’s hormone levels and her preexisting brain chemistry along with her life situation that results in her symptoms”[2]. This explains why some women are more affected by their menstrual cycle and more prone to mood changes than others.

Mood & The Menstrual Cycle: A Study

A very interesting study from the 1930’s by a physician and a psychologist puts it all into perspective[3]. The physician monitored the hormone states of women while the psychologist observed their behaviors. What they found was that the psychologist could predict, with amazing accuracy, where the women were in their menstrual cycles, based on behavior alone.

They found that during the first half of the cycle, before ovulation, the women’s emotions and behaviors were more focused on the outside world—on creating and contributing outside of themselves. During ovulation the women were more content, relaxed, and allowed more help and care from others. After ovulation, during the premenstrual phase when estrogen was lowest and progesterone highest, the women were more focused internally, on their own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

This study illustrates what we women have sensed for years: We feel, think, and even behave differently in accordance with the dialogue of our menstrual cycles.

The Wisdom of The Menstrual Cycle

But this study also shows the wisdom of our female bodies. As author Christiane Northrup states, “I like to think of the first half of our cycles as the time when we are both biologically and psychologically preparing to give birth to someone or something outside of ourselves. In the second half of the cycles, we prepare to give birth to nothing less than ourselves”[4].

Sure, our menstrual cycles can make our moods feel a little complicated. But if we learn about our body and listen to its wisdom, we will not only have the power to take charge of our emotional well-being, but we will appreciate the incredible power our beautiful female bodies possess.


What are your thoughts on The Menstrual Cycle and Mood? Do you have any questions you’d like to see answered in a future post for the Women’s Emotions series? Connect with me by leaving a comment below! Then, join us for more of the Women’s Emotions series as we discuss emotional health across the lifespan and strategies to improve emotional well-being!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]

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[1] Sichel, D. & Driscoll, J.W. (1999). Women’s Moods: What every woman must know about hormones, the brain, and emotional health. Pg. 79. Harper Collins, New York, NY.

[2] Northrup, C. (2001). The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change. (p. 42-3). Bantam Books: New York, NY.

[3] Bendeck, T., & Rubenstein, B. (1939). Correlations between ovarian activity and psychodynamic processes: The ovulatory phase. Psychosomatic Medicine, 1 (2), 245-270.

[4] Northrup, C. (2001). (p. 44).

About Dr. Christina Hibbert

Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She really hopes you’ll join the Personal Growth Group and choose to grow together!


  1. tysa miller says:

    Hello my name is Tysa and I have a mood disorder( started in my early thirties)that is so bad that I receive SSID. Now ,I have always been moody, but now it seems debilitating to a point where I can not hold a job, I’ve become extremely introverted, unfocus, and nervous. Like I said I’ve always had issues, but When I was younger I connected with ppl more, smiled and laughed a whole lot and wasn’t afraid to take on the world. I’m thirty seven now and the only resemblance of normalcy that I have is a week or two before my period. I can connect with ppl, I dont stress, Im extremely relax( which I appreciate so much) I’m focused and confident. Ive been taking an antidepressent for years to no avail. I’m frustrated and not living life. Could I have a hormonal imbalance? How could go about finding out? I would appreciate any feedback. I just want to live again!


    • Hello Tysa,
      I appreciate your comment. It sounds like you are certainly are going through some difficult experiences and I wish I had a simple answer for you. While it is possible your hormones are part of the struggles you’re facing, I can’t say for sure. For most women, symptoms worsen in the week or two before their period, but the fact that you’re noticing a distinct pattern for your symptoms that correlates to your menstrual cycle is evidence enough that you should probably have your hormone levels examined. The tough part is that, because our hormones are so constantly shifting, it can be difficult to get accurate readings. You will need to find someone in your area who understands women’s hormone shifts and can test them accurately (usually with multiple dates for testing). Look for a physician who specializes in women’s health–a gynecologist, OB/Gyn, or even a naturopathic doctor may be able to help. You might also look for practitioners who specialize in hormone replacement therapy–they at least should understand how to test your hormones. You’re likely too young to be starting perimenopause, but it is possible, so you should ask to be tested for that too. A great book you can read is “Women’s Moods” by Sichel & Driscoll. It explains a lot of this and can help you figure out whether it’s hormones or just mood symptoms on their own. I hope this helps! Sending you all my best!

    • Hello. I wanted to let you know that I can completely relate. I was glad to see your post, that is exactly why I was on here today. In the past, various antidepressants have not helped me much either. I’ve been tracking my mood patterns for a couple of years now and have noticed that I too feel best during the last week or two of my menstrual cycle. To feel good, motivated, and have your brain working only a week to 10 days out of each month is not ideal. I have had my hormones tested and my testosterone is very very low, and estrodial was lower than normal. I am seeking a way to correct this now before trying antidepressents or ADHD meds again. I was prescribed a testosterone cream that I am suppose to rub all over my arms, but I am not suppose to put any other lotion on my arms, ever. This is not ideal as I have dry skin and need to moisturize so I don’t look white and flaky. Plus, summertime is almost here and I most certainly need to apply sunscreen on my arms. At my next appt. I would like to discuss options. Tysa, have you found anything out about your hormone levels?

      • You’re right, Leah, it’s certainly rough to only feel well 10 days or so each month, and the treatment for hormone issues can be tricky. It can also be influenced by sleep, nutrition, other medical or mental health conditions, and exercise. You might consider consulting a naturopathic doctor for options if you’re looking for options to antidepressants or ADHD meds. Also, remember there are many types of antidepressants and some work better for some people than others. The important thing is to find a practitioner who is in this with you and will help you find the treatment options that are right for you. Best to you.

    • Whitney Eskew says:

      Balanced, get your hormones checked. I’ve lived with a mood disorder since I was about 19. It was accompanied by extreme PMS. I had a major depressive episode when I was 47 and I’m pretty sure it was due to menopause. I suspect that in the future we’ll learn hormones control everything. I’m taking bio-identical replacement hormones. I hope you didn’t give-up.

  2. Balanced Chica :) says:

    Thank you so much for this really informative article. After suffering from mild to moderate depression for most of my life, and deciding this year to tackle it once and for all rather than go on meds, I have made immense progress. I have eliminated all the mood altering culprits – bad carbs, sugar, alcohol, and (nearly ) caffeine, after doing all this I was able to realise that the pattern of my depression was really tied to my cycle ( it had been masked before by self medicating) Over the past months I’ve been working to support myself in the second half of my cycle (did you know apparently suicides among women are much higher in the second half of their cycle? No idea how they figured that out) It’s hard to find detailed info on this, so I really appreciate your article. So much is making sense now, and hopefully understanding this final part of the puzzle will be life transforming.

    • I appreciate your comment and am very happy this information is of value to you. Yes, it can be so tricky to identify the cause of depression, but it sounds like you were very wise to first eliminate any confounding factors and then see how you felt. Too often, the link between hormones and depression or other mental distress is missed (even by medical and mental health providers!), so congratulation for figuring it out for yourself! I wish you the best in your journey! 🙂

  3. I am 42 and have always had very regular (4 week cycle) periods my whole life. I can tell when I’m ovulating each month, so I can usually pinpoint the day I will start as 2 weeks after that. For the last 2 months I have noticed signs of ovulating right after my period is finished -like 2-3 days later. I’ve had 3 week cycles the past 2 months. Is this something I should be concerned about or is it just a typical thing hat can happen but just annoying? I recently changed jobs in August and have been working in one room with 3 other women. I know this sometimes can change your cycle too, but just wanted to see your thoughts. Thanks.

    • Hello Jennifer,
      I’m sorry for the delay in replying–your comment got lost for a while. But I appreciate you submitting it and I’ll do my best to answer. Is it possible you’re entering the perimenopausal period? You are young, but many women begin having changes in their cycles in their forties and this can indicate a change in hormones and possibly entering perimenopause, which can last for years in many women. If you have any other symptoms, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to your doctor and see if this is a possibility for you. If not, stress can alter cycles and yes, working closely with other women can too. Best wishes to you!

  4. I’m baffled because I feel terrible until I ovulate. Why is this? (I’m 42) Once I ovulate I feel focused, happy, fog lifts, the sunshines as the heavens open up. Previous to ovulation I feel foggy, confused, and just generally terrible. What could be the reason for this? Truly baffled.

    • Good question, Julie. You remind us that not everyone is the same when it comes to hormones and emotions. Just because most women experience things a certain way doesn’t mean that all do. I don’t know if it’s always been this way for you or if it’s just a sign of your body “winding down” with it’s cycle. Many shifts occur in our 40’s and beyond as we prepare to be done with all these hormones, and many women experience varying emotional symptoms in relation. Or, you could just be less sensitive to the positive benefits of estrogen, and as it builds, you feel worse. Then, when you ovulate, estrogen drops and progesterone rises, and perhaps that’s a better combination for you. Thank you for the comment. 🙂

  5. Jacob Kelly says:

    I am working on a research project to find out the effects of women’s emotions to their monthly flow. I would sure need some help.

    • Interesting research question. I would suggest reading Christiane Northrup’s books on “Women’s Bodies,” and “The Wisdom of Menopause.” Excellent information in those books and it should, hopefully, lead to what you’re looking for!

  6. I read the article, but I’m confused. I usually feel very emotional, and cry more often, during the week of my period. Afterwards I’m happier. Did I just understand wrong, or is it something else? I was told this was normal but after some reading I’m more confused. Please help.

    • You are right, Simone. The week leading up to your period is usually the hardest for most women. Some feel over-emotional even after the period starts, especially if they’re feeling very fatigued, which is common. Others feel relief of their symptoms right when their period starts. This is what I tried to say in the article, but perhaps it wasn’t clear enough. Yes, what you’re describing is very “normal” for most women. Not fun to deal with, but “normal”. Hope that helps. 🙂

  7. Thank you soo much for this article. It really is the most concise and informative I have ever read on what I have been dealing with for 10 years. There really was a point where I thought my PMS would not ever allow me to have a stable job, thats how erratic my emotions were… The pill helped for a while but am off now and have different issues. Its like a never ending battle to figure out what works best… B100, Omega 3 and evening primrose have definitely helped.

  8. This is a great article.

    I have recently begun to really pay attention to my moods and swings around my period.

    I used to suffer from horrible PMS and as soon as I would get my period, everything would be okay, instantly. However, something shifted in the last couple of years… where my PMS is bearable but when I feel my worst (emotionally and mentally) is a few days AFTER I get my period. Day 2-11 are the worst for me… then around day 12 I start feeling normal again.

    Do you know what may be causing this?

    I have a mild version of pcos… due to my bad pms I started using progesterone cream a few months ago. This has helped the last 2 weeks of my cycle immensely. And the period itself… I have less cramps, my period is lighter, and overall it’s shorter. I stopped using it for a month and felt horrible again… much worse than when i stop.

    Should I be supplementing this with estrogen cream maybe? What is it in the first couple weeks of my cycle that makes me feel so bad? (Depression, hopelessness, longing, loneliness, etc) (I’m 32, btw)

    • Also, me feeling worse the first 10-12 days of my cycle as opposed to the last (which it used to be when I had horrible pms) started months before I started using the progesterone cream.

      I started using DIM which I later found out is not good for me… after using DIM for a few months it seems like my period has somehow flipped inside out.

    • Thank you for your comment. Since I’m not your doctor, it’s hard to say exactly what is happening with you and your cycle. It could be that the low energy of having your period actually makes you feel worse those first few days/week. Some women feel very tired, worn out, and therefore, moody, during and right after the period starts. Some feel that way in addition to pre-menstrual symptoms too.

      The important thing is to work with a doctor who is well-educated in women’s hormones and health/mental health, so they can help you find the right balance of treatments for you. Progesterone, for instance, is a miracle-worker for some women, but for many others it causes extreme mood symptoms. Estrogen can be the same way. So, make sure your doctor understands these issues and can help you find the best regimen for your overall mental and physical health. It’s a process, that’s for sure! Good luck!

  9. Lisa Clark says:

    Thank you so much for all of the posts! You all have made me realize I’m not alone in the way I feel. I have had very bad PMS/PMDD for a while now. I’m 45 & my life is turned upside down 2 weeks out of the month. I can’t have a good solid relationship or do my job as well during this time. I’m emotional for no reason, foggy, can’t focus, tired & not motivated at all to exercise. Then it seems like in an instant, when my hormone levels change, I’m like a totally different person. I’m happy, clear-minded & focused. I get up at 6:00 a.m. to go running 3-6 miles. I’m positive & feel like I can accomplish anything. I’ve had doctors & psychiatrists try to tell me I have anxiety or depression. The meds only made me very depressed all the time. I know different meds affect everyone differently. I even went to an OB/GYN in my area. She was my age & was a “hormonal specialist”. She told me that it was something I would have to “deal with” & it was a “rite of passage”!!! I left her office in tears. She never did a physical exam nor would she even consider doing any hormone testing. I was 40 at the time & she said “you’re perimenopausal”. I was like…”I am…how do you know?” She said oh it’s your age. I’ve consistently had regular menstrual cycles with no irregularities. I never went back there I was so defeated. I had my thyroid levels tested by a GP & he said they were “normal”, low normal but normal nevertheless & I was fine! I wasn’t fine & am still not fine. I know that whatever I have is directly related to my hormones. I can predict it every month. I want to feel normal! I want to be normal! Do you have any suggestions for finding a professional who can help. At this point, I’ll consider anything that will help. I’m uninsured right now which makes this even more difficult. Thank you for any suggestions you can provide.

    • Wow, Lisa. You have definitely been through it! I’m so sorry it’s been such a rocky road for you. This is a hard one to find the right treatment for, as you have noticed, because not every physician or mental health practitioner is well-versed in how hormones and mental health are related and what to do about it, and because treatment varies so much, person to person. You’re right–you need your hormone levels tested if they want to tell you for sure if you’re in perimenopause. Age is so varied that you can’t tell just by that, and 40 is still young. Not having insurance surely makes it tricky. The best I can suggest is to try another OB/Gyn or GP who you can afford to see, but ask first about their experience with women’s hormones and with PMDD. Ask if they can test your hormone levels, and what they can offer for treatment. If it doesn’t sound good, ask if they know anyone who specializes in this in your area. The best we can do is to keep trying to find the person that can help us. I don’t know where you live, so I don’t have specific referrals for you, but you could also go online and search for your city + PMDD + physicians. I hope this helps in some way. Best to you.

    • Lindsay Virgin says:

      I have had similar difficulties as Lisa—long story short, a “reproductive endocrinologist” who is also a practicing gynecologist was the way to go for testing and treatment of hormonal imbalance. Though he deals mainly with fertility issues with people my age (32), he also helps those in menopause or perimenopause or with pcos etc experiencing hormonal deficiency. It is a process and you have to be persistent. I had the head of endocrinology tell me “your healthy, deal with it” when I requested hormone testing and he denied me. My thyroid TSH was in range so that’s as far as he would go. He didn’t care what my symptoms and impairment were. I spent $500 on a full panel hormonal test to find undetectable testosterone, DHEA, and progesterone. I took the results to a reproductive Endo for further help. They finally, finally listened. Keep requesting help. You know your body. I started this search at 26. 6 years later and I am only now being treated…

      • Your point is an important one, Lindsay–it can take a long time to get hormonal issues figured out. It’s a true struggle for many women to even find a physician/provider who takes their concerns seriously. I appreciate you sharing what finally helped you and want to echo how important it is for we women to demand the tests and care we know we need. We know our bodies/minds better than anyone, and it’s up to us to keep searching until the right solution is found. If this hormone stuff were simple, believe me, I would have a post about “the 5 ways to change your hormones!” Unfortunately, it’s not. 🙂

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m wondering if you could help me with some perspective… I have been doing a lot of research into hormones lately. I have always been into natural health, and have greatly improved many health issues with a natural diet, emotional/self-improvement work, etc, etc. But I feel hormones have been my great missing link, and I never really understood them very well in the past. I have classically always had irregular periods, with stretches of time of no bleeding. Now that I have become more in tune with my body, I know that I am having cycles even when I don’t bleed, and I also have stretches where I do have healthy bleeds for a number of months in a row. I have always been very sensitive, and I am more recently in my life tuning into the way I feel throughout my cycles. My biggest question right now lies in the way I feel before and after menstruation, which seems different from what other women experience… I feel good right around ovulation, then I continue to feel good up until menstruation. I don’t get depressed the week before my period, rather I have lots of passionate energy and I feel very alive. I FEEL MORE, if that makes sense, but I DON’T feel like a basket-case, I feel great and exhilarated, like I’m powerful and on top of my game and flying high. I also feel very physically strong during this time and have the best workouts, right up through the first day of my period (I don’t really have classic PMS symptoms). Then, once my period comes, I feel a sort of calm starting on the second day. But then after my period I feel kind of deflated, or depleted, like my vitality is gone, and my mind is not as clear. And I am physically not as strong, and my knees even feel sensitive and even a little achy, and I have to take it easy in workouts. I even start to retain a little bit of water (I don’t seem to retain water BEFORE my period, like other women report). In my research lately, I have been reading about progesterone and its role in regulating fluid retention, inflammation, immunity, etc… Could the natural drop in progesterone with menstruation play a role in these symptoms? I feel as though my hormones are still balancing out after some unhealthy choices earlier in my life, with adrenal problems, etc, so I assume I could be experiencing a sort of chronic low level of progesterone (at least in relation to estrogen)? I am 28 years old, by the way. Thank you so much!

    • Thank you for your comments, Elizabeth. There are definitely some women who experience the opposite of what most women experience with their menstrual cycle. Some, like you, feel better during the premenstrual week with a drop in energy after. Some women also seem to be more positively affected by progesterone than others. For most, progesterone counteracts the estrogen that helps them feel strong and well. For others, however, it seems to even them out or give them energy. Some women respond favorably to progesterone treatments for PMS or postpartum depression, for instance, while most do not seem to. All this means is that we are each unique in how our hormones affect us. The important thing is to recognize our unique patterns and how they influence our moods and take care of ourselves during times of vulnerability. The only way to know what will work best for you is to speak to a doctor who specializes in women’s hormone health and see if your hormone levels are in the “normal” range and if there is anything they might recommend for you. Otherwise, like most of us, we just do our best to cope with the harder times, recognizing our bodies need a little extra love, then enjoy the times when we feel more “on top of the world!” Best to you!

  11. I found this article to be very informative and passed it onto some friends (and my boyfriend!) I know you cannot advise as “my doctor” but do you have any recommendations to help level the highs and lows of a women’s menstrual cycle? I too, reach a high about two weeks (sometimes one) before my period, and then a week before (or a few days before) it’s full blown PMDD. I don’t really recover and remain unmotivated until the cycle starts again. I’m trying to be mindful of this, track my mood, really trying to exercise, eat healthier and push through the foul moods but sometimes it just gets the best of me. I want to try to do this naturally if possible. Any advice or info is greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance! J

    • It’s a tricky thing to treat, but it is possible to find relief. The best “natural” method is to track your symptoms, keep a calendar, and know when your period is coming up so you can prepare. If you can reduce stress during that week, focus on self-care, get more sleep and light exercise, and eat foods high in protein and healthy carbs, this can really help. Many women also “quarantine” on the really bad days, when they can (I know I do!), by telling their loved ones “Sorry, but it’s for your own good,” then seeking quiet space to rest. Some use antidepressants during just the second half of the cycle, for extreme symptoms, and a psychiatrist is best to help find the right one. Hope this helps!

  12. About a year ago I went off of birth control for the first time in 9 years– the pharmacy had switched my generic version multiple times and I wasn’t feeling well physically, mentally, or emotionally so I decided to take a break. Almost an entire year went by without a normal cycle– to which my doctor wasn’t concerned at all. He said it happens all the time and if I wanted to go back on the pill it wouldn’t be a problem. I on the other hand was highly concerned and decided ultimately that I wanted to give my body a rest of this viscous cycle of trickery, and see what happens. Sidenote– I’m the type of person that avoids taking antibiotics/medicine and I am very much into more “holistic” medicine and so ultimately I decided it just wasn’t for me at this point in my life. Long story short, I am now “regular” (finally…after many stressful months) and have never felt more “normal” and psychologically grounded. Despite mood fluctuations and all of the fun things that come with being a woman, I feel more in touch with those emotions then I did previously– if that makes sense? It’s been a strange experience, because I literally don’t remember what it was like before I started taking.

    Just out of curiosity I was wondering if there is any research or validity around any of this or more specifically if being on the pill affects the release of hormones and mood fluctuation as a result.

    • Absolutely there is research linking use of “the pill” with mood fluctuations, and in some cases, extreme mood changes. Many women are extremely sensitive to the hormones in many kind of birth control pills, while others are not. It’s important to listen to your body when dealing with birth control and take charge of your own wellness. It sounds like you’ve done that, so congratulations!!

  13. Many experts and books agree that charting your menstrual cycles and basal temperature can predict ovulation.
    While it is not 100% accurate in helping you conceive a girl, it does sway the odds a
    little. What many people fail to realize is how getting pregnant can be so much of a science as it can be an art.

  14. Thank you Dr. Christina, I have recently noticed that the week after my period I feel good for about 1 day…then I slump into moodiness. I am not sure I understand why since my hormone levels are supposedly high. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism-could that be affecting my estrogen and testosterone levels after my cycle? I did eat a lot of sugar and caffeine, that I would not normally eat towards the end of this last period-could that be the reason I feel horrible? I truly feel bad, Ive had to work extra hard not to snap at my husband and children. 🙁

    • I am sorry for your troubles. First, your hormone levels start climbing again after your period starts, but they aren’t at their highest until around day 14, at ovulation. Also, during your period it is common to feel tired, moody, have cravings, feel irritable, etc. Your body actually needs more sleep and better nutrition during that time. Thyroid is another hormone and that definitely can affect your mood, too, so make sure you work with your doctor to get that issue under control. Mostly, forgive yourself and tell your husband and children you’re sorry and don’t mean to feel this way. Take good care of yourself all month, but especially during that last week of the cycle and the first week after your period. And please, talk with your doctor for specific advice. Best wishes.

  15. I need help says:

    I am 34 years old and for the past 2 years I have experienced the worst 2 weeks before my cycle. I am also on anti-depressants. About 2 weeks before my period I feel as if I become an emotional basket case. Angry, sadness, tears, feeling like I’m caged And can’t get out. Nothing my spouse says helps it just angrys me more. I know he’s trying too honestly he should get a medal for putting up with me. I feel so lost and so helpless. For the most part when my period comes its like a weight has been lifted and I feel like I can breath again, but on the rare occasion it’s last about 2 or 3 days after my period starts where I just have a trigger and something will set me off into an emotional fit. The only time i feel safe and where I’m not mistreating anyone is in my bedroom where it’s dark and quiet, but I have 4 children so that is no way for me to live. Please help I just want to feel as normal as I possibly can.

    • Hello and thank you for your comment. What your describing sounds like it could definitely be hormone-driven emotions in the second half of your cycle. If you’re already on an antidepressant and you talk with your doctor about this pattern you’re noticing, your doctor might be able to increase the dose during those weeks of your cycle. It is also common for women to feel this emotional intensity after the period starts, because with your period can also come exhaustion, and you may need more sleep/rest during that time. Taking extra good care of yourself during that time of your cycle is one of the best ways to prevent the extreme emotions, (sleep, nutrition, exercise, down time) though it might not completely remove your symptoms. Your husband can help with the kids during those days–it will benefit everyone if you’re feeling better. I suggest telling your doctor about all these things, and if you don’t get the answers you need, try again until you do. Hope this helps.

  16. Hello my name is Ginny. Thank you for this article I found it very informative. I have a question regarding my cycle and mood. I have noticed major hormonal,emotional mood changes a few days before my cycle starts. However, this is all new since giving birth to my daughter. I never use to be this way withy cycle and now my daughter is 16 months old and it’s not getting better. Which brought me to your article. I’ve been researching to see if there is something I’m lacking since giving birth. Do I need to take a vitamin/supplement or something to help with these crazy moods. It scares me because I’ve never been like this in the past and I’m 33 years old. Any suggestions?

  17. Hi there,
    Thank you so much for writing this article. I found it when trying to understand if what I experience is more than the average colloquial “PMS.” I’m 24 and I have a short cycle, usually about 3 weeks from the first day of menstruation to the first day of the next menstruation. I experience low emotions the week before my period, such as feeling as though I’m going to cry often, irritability, and the feeling that I don’t want to get out of bed or accomplish anything. However, I definitely have an extreme high a couple of days into menstruation and for a few days after my menstruation. I have a ton of energy, a super low appetite (to the point that somedays I will just simply forget to eat anything), a really high sex drive, and just an overall exhilaration. While right now these fluctuations are for the most part manageable, what worries me is that this past cycle my high during menstruation and shortly after was more intense, and seemed almost what I would imagining being on some sort of ‘upper’ would feel like. I felt as though my heart was racing faster, and my other symptoms were intensified as well. I’m worried that symptoms may be becoming more extreme and almost into a state of bipolar like symptoms. Is it possible that these symptoms may turn into manic like incidents?

    • If you are sensitive to changes in hormones and have experienced symptoms that are on the “bipolar spectrum,” like mania, it’s very possible. For instance, the extreme changes in hormones that come after a baby is born can trigger mania or bipolar disorder in women. If you think you’re experiencing manic-like symptoms related to your period, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider who understands both women’s mental health, and the link between hormones and mental health. It may also be that you’re so low when your estrogen levels drop that the feelings you have after FEEL like mania, because you feel so much better. Again, it’s going to be most beneficial to speak to your provider, or find someone you can trust who can help you figure it all out.

    • This is exactly how I feel! I’ve started thinking that I’m bi-polar, but was wondering why my symptoms would correlate so perfectly with my period/cycle. I was diagnosed with clinical depression/possible bi-polar nearly 30 years ago–when I first started my period! I’ve even lost jobs because I can’t get out of bed. I’m wondering if it has ALWAYS been my cycle. I have noticed my highs/lows are worse now, but I’m 43, so I’m sure there’s some new hormone stuff happening, but they have always been bad. I was thinking bi-polar because I’m so obviously manic a few days into my period up until ovulation that it’s ridiculous. Thanks to your post, and the Dr’s reply, I think that my lows have gotten SO low, that once I start my period and I have my good days, they seem so much more intense. I’m in my low now. Since being diagnosed with PMDD about 13 years ago, I at least know a little about all of this and realize though I may feel suicidal EVERY SINGLE MONTH, the feeling will go away, so don’t do anything. I know several people that have attempted suicide during this time not realizing it was hormonal. I really want to educate young women (I have a 13 year old daughter) on hormones. I would love to have known about this years ago! …now to get help so maybe I can feel ‘normal’ before I’m 90!

  18. september snow says:

    Dear Dr,
    During my period, I feel confused, sometimes angry, sometimes depressed, sometimes I cry, the worst is that I can’t concentrate on my work. Is this normal for me or not? Can I know please? Thanks for this article. Please reply to me.

    • Hello. Though I can’t diagnose online like this, it does sound like you’re experiencing some symptoms of PreMenstrual Syndrome (PMS). I suggest you speak to your doctor about your symptoms and ask if s/he can help you figure out if this is what’s going on. It helps to know so you can keep track of your cycle and take a little extra care of yourself during that time. Also, your doctor could help you look into other causes and/or treatments, like birth control methods, medication or hormone supplements, and/or natural supplements like vitamins.

  19. Hi Dr.,
    Thank you for this article. I’m trying to figure out why it seems the only time I can think straight or get anything done is while I have my period. The day I get it is such a day of relief. This lasts for about a week. Then things start to go downhill and get steadily worse until the next time it shows up. I am 51 and have had PCOS since my period started. For the last 8 years my cycle has been pretty consistent at every 4 weeks or so. The closer I get to my period the more irritable, unfocused, foggy and intolerant of the husband I get. Then….the day I get my period….I am fine. It’s freaky. Which day am I having my true feelings???? The day I want to make him treats or the day I want to stab him with a fork??? I told my primary about the fork thing and they made me fill out a suicide questionnaire. I laughed and told them i was homicidal not suicidal……lol. They put me on Zoloft. Helped a little. I wish I could take something or do something that would make me feel like that first day of my period all the time. Any suggestions????? Thanks.

    • I feel for you, Carol. These crazy hormones can be such a hard burden to bear! Because of your age and your past history with PCOS and PMS symptoms, you are at higher risk for mood symptoms during perimenopause too. I don’t know if you’ve had your hormone levels tested, particularly FSH, but considering your age it’s very possible you’re entering that perimenopausal phase of life. This can be a very hard time for many women, especially because it often impacts marriages so drastically. I suggest you talk with your doctor to just see where you are in the life cycle of hormones. Then, you can work to reduce stress, take very good care of your body and mind, and keep on whatever regimen your doctor suggests to help make the “bad” days better. Best to you!

  20. Hello! I came across your blog while trying to find answers to a question I have regarding the menstrual cycle and it’s fluctuation of hormones. I personally find that in the days leading up to ovulation I am the worst mentally, meaning everything up to suicidal. But the day after I ovulate, I am really happy. The difference is day and night and I’ve always joked, though no joke at all, that if I were to commit suicide it would be right before ovulation. I also experience dissociation and a feeling that things aren’t real. I experience PMS too, though not too bad. I am generally just really impatient with people in this time. I had to take progesterone suppositories while pregnant with my son who is the only child out of 4 pregnancies. My doctor thinks my luteal phase may have been short combined with a blood clotting disorder. Because I am able to distinctively feel both physical and mentally ovulation, I can tell now that my luteal phase runs at least 10 days. I’m not sure this blog is still followed but I would like your opinion on the role of hormones and my remarkably low mood before ovulation instead of before menstruation. Thank you in advance!

    • Hello Felicia. Though most women follow the patterns I described in this post, others, like you, have a completely unique response to the changes in hormones. The important thing to realize is that it’s the shifts in the hormones that cause the distress, and not just the LEVELS of hormones in your body. You might be more sensitive to that first shift in hormones, as you prepare to ovulate, while others are more sensitive to the second shift, before menstruation. The fact that you’ve done well on progesterone might also suggest your body might be more affected negatively by the estrogen, too. Especially since you can feel ovulation so distinctly. It sounds like you’re experiencing symptoms of PMDD, and I would encourage you to discuss this with a knowledgeable doctor, if you haven’t already. Also, charting your cycle can help you prepare for that luteal phase, and you can be more careful about how you take care of your body during that time, to improve mental health. I hope this helps somewhat. Best to you!

  21. Dear Dr,

    I have done a oophorectomy unilateral I had a small complex cyst *2cm, with regular wall, in my left ovary, and only agreed to take the cyst. However, my doctor who is not a Oncologist, decided to take my falopian tube, my whole ovary, and omentum, by surprise!, because the pathologist found some borderline cells.

    I am extremely upset with her, and the explanation she gave me afterwords and before the surgery. I know that a cystectomy could have been done given the size of my cyst because there was margins to do it…

    But my worries were that my hormonal system changed. Even that everyone says it should be the same, it has changed because I m not the same person anymore.

    I have less testosterone production now *i did a blood test. It is near the lower normal limit. I don’t have estrogen values to compare. I have a no existentant sex drive, as before I was always in the mood and had a wonderful intimate life with my husband, who keep us together in a true emotional e physical bound. This has been destroyed. I tried to have sex, but I dont feel as much pleasure anymore. I have less lubrification….My doctor, of course, says it is all mental… And is is in a sense that it has become painful emotionally for me not to feel so much life! And I fell a little more depressed, as before I was so active and connected to life and my surroundings. But also because what happened with my doctor, I feel I was raped in a way.

    I want to have my life back, my insights, my sex drive, and I m sure this is connected with the hormones. Even my physicality, skin sensitivity has lessen. My menstrual cycles are regular, but I am depressed all the time, and more before the period. Before I had a lot of energy, and very hydrated skin, and my PMS was having less patience with situation but not so often depressed. Now I feel dry, my skin, my hair is getting my first whites… So sad! Do you have any recommendation for me? Thank you so much.

    • Hello. I am very sorry for all you have been through with this experience. I understand why you would feel violated and depressed. It is common for women who undergo procedures like this one to experience changes in their emotional health/sex drive, and even physical changes. It requires time and work to adjust to these changes. Because of the emotional distress you’re feeling, I would recommend seeking some therapy to help you make sense of things, to grieve your losses, and to help you learn coping strategies to deal with these changes and the emotional symptoms you’ve been experiencing. You may want to also seek advice from another doctor–one who understands women’s hormones and how they impact your health, and one who can offer some health-based solutions to help you adjust. I hope this helps just a bit. Best to you.

  22. Hi Dr Hibbert,

    My problem is strong mood swings/irritable behavior during PMS that are damaging my relationships. I think I am in fairly good health, eat vegetarian/low sugar/moderate caffeine, exercise regularly by running 2-3 miles 3x/week, (I’m 36 with 1 child, but this is a pattern of my whole life) but I still am angry and irritable.

    Is there anything I can do or take to help myself that is supported by research (e.g., vitamins, supplements)? Or can you point me to any reading that would help me?



    • I am sorry for the delay, but I’ve been involved with other projects that have taken me away from replying. One supplement I can eagerly recommend is Fish Oil. The benefits are endless, and it’s been shown to have antidepressant effects because of its anti-inflammatory properties. 3-6 g is usually recommended, but you can ask your healthcare provider. It’s also important to get enough sleep/rest during PMS times, and to try and give yourself a break emotionally during that time. It’s not always possible, I know, but decreasing stress at that time is a great help. You may also discuss other supplements or an antidepressant to use during those days, if the symptoms are really interfering in life, with your healthcare provider. If you are able to find someone who specializes in women’s reproductive mental health/health, that is ideal. Hope this helps. Best to you.

  23. Hi Christina
    Great article, and interesting to find it just at the point of the launch of our new app that reflects what you speak of. Although designed in Australia we’re expecting it will be helpful to the English-speaking world to help empower women through their monthly cycles. I’m the dietitian for the app and have studied the food and mood side as well as how hormones affect our food desires. Each day has a few sentences about how to view food for the specific time of month. Yet food is one small part of the app which also includes a tracker, guided meditations, lunar cycles, and words to help women understand why they feel the way they do each day plus a whole lot more. Our slogan is ‘While I am aware, I am in control’. The app, called The Moon and You, is newly available for iPhones and Android isn’t far off. Our website also publishes regular blogs in the component topics, and we have a Facebook page and support group. We’re very excited to hopefully help millions of women enjoy a better quality of life! Best wishes, Sally (Accredited Practising Dietitian for The Moon and You app)

  24. Hi Christina,

    I was wondering what someone with a longer cycle would experience. My cycles are around 40 days, sometimes a little longer. I have pcos. I’ve just noticed that in articles I read they give you a certain amount if time for PMS or ovulation, and I feel like I have to multiply that time by two. PMS seems to last twice as long. Like it’s drawn out. There isn’t a lot of info I’ve seen about this out there and I was wondering if you could weigh in.


  25. I’ve been dealing with depression all my life. It’s pretty depressing, actually.

    For too long, I accepted depression as the norm. One day, I was fed up with it all. I quit my job, got a much better one, started eating much healthier and even took up physical exercise as well as frequent walks in the local park.

    It really helped me deal with my depressions. But it wasn’t until this article that I realized my depressions come and go along with my cycles.

    I just want to slap myself for not having noticed this before.

    Knowing this makes it much more easy for me to mentally prepare myself for my next bout with depression.

    Thank you so much, Dr. Hibbert.

  26. Hello Christina!

    I always am very enlightened while reading your articles! Recently my husband and I have been trying to conceive and I’ve had a few questions about my cycle, any cycle in general. Last cycle, I started spotting mixed with cervical mucus 4 days before my actual ovulation. The spotting lasted only two days, and didn’t require a panty liner by any means. This month, I had very light spotting again on just the 21st of October, with moderate pain towards my right ovary on the 23d and 25th, which I can’t figure out which I actually ovulated. Could I have spotted on the 23d and had residual pains on the 25th, or is it more likely growing pains on the 23d and ovulating on the 25th? My question is, what exactly causes this spotting if not the follicle rupturing? We are casually trying to conceive, while not charting or temping, though I am certain I did ovulate as my breasts are very sore and my cervical mucus has dried up. I have noticed occasional egg white cervical mucus both today and yesterday, so that’s confusing as well since my understanding is that is caused by estrogen. I am greatly curious about how our bodies work and why they do what they do.

  27. I’m hoping that I could finally get an answer that makes sense. I have been on the pill for 12yrs. 2.5 yrs ago i decided to come off, the side effects of weight gain and 4 day long headaches were overbearing. When I came off it was the beginning of my problems, My doctor’s advice was to go back on it. There was no way I wanted to do this. Firstly my hair was all falling off for like the last 2 years, my skin broke out and I had night sweats, tremors and anxiety. It has now begun to lessen. My hair is still not the same but not falling off so much, I’ve dropped of some weight and do feel better, however, during the last 2 weeks of my cycle (my period is regular) I have breast tenderness, severe thirst at night,hot feet, and the last couple days I begin to get this really bad headache and pressure in my eyes!! just waiting for my period to come for it to subside. Oh yes and I get cramps at 37yrs!! i know it is hormonal but doctors where I live only want me to get back on the pill.( i live in the West Indies) Can you give me some advice that I can try on my own. Should I try the progesterone cream? Thank you so much.

  28. I am desperate for some help. I suffer from premenstrual dysphoria which turns me into a nutcase once s minth. The only time in my life I have felt emotionally stable and rational was when I was pregnant. I have tried antidepressants in the past but these did not help and gave me important undesired side effects. I also tried progesterone cream to no avail. I hate myself this way and this state severely affect all my relationships. Please help…

  29. Hi there,

    I hope I can still get a reply after almost 3 years of this article being released. This article pretty much sums up what I’ve been going through. For years, Ive been having the struggle of thinking that I am depressed, that I don’t know what I want, just being a plain mess. But I’ve also noticed that it starts from a day to another. I usually spend the first two weeks after my period great. Determined. Cleared mind. Knowing what I want and being just happy. Then from a day to another, everything changes. I feel completely irritated, lost, angry, sad. And those are feelings that persist until after my period. That is not life.

    • Married for last 3 years, suffering from pcod. I hav been noticing n observing myself all these years ….feels great from day1 to day20. And after that it starts- my self questioning, my attitude towards life. Feels like exploding on ppl wen iam right n so on… What i wanted to ask is though i know that this is all part of cycle, yet i cant help controlling my emotions, feelong helpless so as not to spoil my relationships.

  30. I suffer depression and anxiety. Have been taking medications for past 18 years. Nothing seems to help. I seem to only be getting worse. And, yes, everything gets worse about 7 days before my period begins. It is an awful time. But, the depression I suffer is awful and I so want to be free from meds and from depression. Just have no money and insurance is not good and will not pay for such things. I just want to be able to live a normal life.

    • Louise Wright says:

      Hi, I want to have a normal life basically.
      I feel my hormones control way too much of my life. I only love my partner sometimes when I’m feeling better after a period. Problem is I only have about 2 periods a year as I have high prolactin and pcos.
      I hate my personality changing and as I have no normal cycles I can’t blame my mood on hormones as I can’t even understand them. I become scared and unfamiliar of who I even am. My libido is always different too.
      With absent periods which phase of the cycle am I constantly in? I wish I could stay in the folicular phase as I’m such a brilliant person in that one. My poor boyfriend.
      Doctors and endocrinologists will NEVER talk about emotional impacts it drives me crazy.
      I’m on Bromocriptine now to reduce prolactin as I’m trying to have a baby. I hate medication as this too affects your mind. I just feel lost and uneducated and out of control of my body.
      Much love to all who are at the mercy of the hormone King.
      Louise. Aged 37.

  31. I’m on my second day of periods and I’m crying my eyes out! I’m crying for reasons, I’m crying for no reason. Yesterday i was yelling at everyone for the smallest things! My dad was afraid too seeing my anger 😀 this is the first time i had such intense mood swings. I’m still crying, I’m laughing that I’m crying while typing this. This is weird. I know it’s normal. I’m so exerted! All i wanna do right now is cry and regret many past decisions i took. My crying is getting intense and my poor bf is suffering my mood swings. I know he wouldn’t understand even if i told him what’s been up with me… He didn’t even knows I’m crying 🙁

    • Hi, I have anxiety and depression which I felt was brought on by my hormones as I got so embroiled in feeling moody. I’ve upped my antidepressants and I feel OK in terms of my thinking however I am in tears about nothing! My doctor just says this is your depression but I’m convinced it’s hormone related, the antidepressant I’m on yes may help mood but it won’t regulate my hormones. My doctor won’t even consider this though. My hormones have always fluctuated and during puberty I was in tears like this everyday until I went on the pill. I’m considering going back on the pill after I get results from thyroid tests. It me might not be the ideal scenario but it’s the only relief I am offered here rather than suffering .

  32. Sometimes it’s really tough being a woman! I have never had much for PMS other than cramps and zits, but this year has been rough! I’m 38 and right after I ovulate I get weepy. I’m weepy for a few days and then am OK, but not great until I get my period. Thank you for explaining this! Now I know why I’m weepy, but what can I do about it? How do I feel balanced again? And last month I was weepy and anxious for a week!

  33. After reading a lot of the comments here, I sympathize with many of you. Please push your doctors to do blood work and ask for a printout of the results. In my experience, some clinical professionals do not have a good understanding of the research behind lab reference ranges (Disclosure: I’m on the research side, that’s why I’m comfortable saying this!)

    For example, I went through a period that felt very much like depression (moody, trouble getting out of bed, so exhausted I literally thought of jumping off a bridge). After pushing my GP she finally took some blood and discovered my iron levels were “on the low side”. By this she meant it technically didn’t meet the lab’s definition for low iron; my ferritin level was 12 but the lab/doctors consider anything below 12 ng/mL to be problematic and warranting treatment. Luckily she understood that just because you are slightly above the lab’s reference range it doesn’t mean you will be asymptomatic! We needed to get my iron levels up and we did! I’m feeling like my usual self.

    So please, if your doctor isn’t cooperative, get a second opinion. They are providing a service, so if they aren’t meeting your needs try again with someone else. Push to get that blood work and find someone who can help you/has a better understanding of the limitations of reference ranges. In Canada, naturopaths can also look at the lab report to help you, but I usually start with doctors.

    Also, small warning: Please don’t take this as a promotion for iron. You can poison yourself with iron, so IF that is the problem you would need to be tested regularly to ensure you aren’t taking too much. Please don’t take iron without being monitored by someone on the clinical side.

    I hope this helps.


  1. […] you healthy. Watch out for PMS, which is common in these years. Talk with your doctor more about menstrual cycle and mental health. Most important? Focus on the “now.” Enjoy your family. If you can’t, seek help. You’ll […]

  2. […] second half of the cycle (pre-menstrual), right up to the time you get your period. As a tendency, women tend to be more critical of their feelings and emotions during the pre-menstrual phase. It makes women uninterested in the outside world and more focused […]

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