Menstruation is a natural and normal biological process that happens in the female body, typically occurring once a month. While it is commonly associated with physical discomfort and hormonal changes, recent research suggests that there is also a significant link between menstruation and mental health.
This article delves into the effects menstruation can have on mental health, shedding light on the emotional and psychological aspects women may experience during their menstrual cycle.
Understanding Menstruation and Hormonal Changes
During menstruation, the body undergoes hormonal fluctuations, particularly in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations can potentially influence mood, emotions, and overall mental well-being.
Many women report experiencing irritability, mood swings, and increased emotional sensitivity in the days leading up to their period, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Mental Health:
PMS affects approximately 75% of women of reproductive age, with around 20–40% experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. PMS can manifest through physical symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and fatigue, but it also commonly affects mental health. Women with severe PMS may experience depression, anxiety, irritability, and even panic attacks.
Premenstrual Dysphonic Disorder (PMDD):
For a small percentage of women, premenstrual symptoms can escalate to a more severe condition known as premenstrual dysphonic disorder (PMDD). PMDD is characterised by extreme mood swings, severe depression, intense anger, and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms typically begin a week or two before menstruation and subside soon after the start of the period.
It is essential to recognise the distinction between PMS and PMDD, as the latter requires professional intervention and support.
The Impact of Mental Health on Menstruation
While menstruation may impact mental health, this relationship also works in reverse. Women who already have existing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, may experience an exacerbation of symptoms during their menstrual cycle.
The hormonal changes and accompanying physical discomfort can amplify emotional distress, leading to increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, or insomnia.
Coping Strategies and Self-Care:
Recognising the potential impact of menstruation on mental health is the first step towards taking proactive measures to manage and alleviate these effects. Here are some coping strategies and self-care practices that can contribute to overall well-being during menstruation:
Practicing self-care; Engage in activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as taking warm baths, practising yoga or meditation, listening to music, or spending time in nature.
Exercise; Physical activity can help regulate mood, reduce stress, and boost endorphins. Find an exercise routine that suits your preferences, whether it’s jogging, dancing, or practicing a sport.
Balanced diet; eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help stabilize energy levels and mood.
Healthy sleep habits; Prioritize regular sleep patterns by establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and allocating enough time for restful sleep.
Support system; Reach out to friends, family, or support groups to share experiences and seek emotional support during challenging times.
Menstruation and mental health are interconnected, with hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle often affecting emotional well-being.
It is vital for women to understand and recognise the potential impact menstruation has on their mental health, acknowledge the different manifestations of premenstrual symptoms, and seek appropriate support when needed.