Menstruation and Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma and Embracing Empowerment

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

For women, their monthly cycle can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. However, what many people do not realize is that the menstrual cycle can also have a significant impact on mental health. Additionally, the social stigma surrounding menstruation can also have a negative impact on mental wellbeing. That is why in this short article we will explore the complex relationship between menstruation and mental health.

“The menstrual cycle is a natural process. It is a complex cycle controlled by female hormones that cause regular bleeding (periods). The menstrual cycle has four phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. Some women experience menstrual problems (e.g. heavy bleeding [1] ).”

Another definition is the one that the Mayo Clinic [2]  gives us: “The menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes a woman’s body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg –a process called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a menstrual period.”

So, how can the Period affect the mental health of women? According to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,[3]  “Many women experience symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). In some instances, the mood symptoms and emotional components of PMS are the most troubling. To women in such cases, PMS is often referred to as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).”

Additionally, “PMS affects 5-10% of women in their reproductive years. In contrast to PMS, PMDD is characterized by more significant premenstrual mood disturbance that can seriously affect relationships and impair functioning. Common symptoms include: irritability, depressed mood, anxiety, or mood swings [4] .”

“It is estimated that over 90% of people who have a period also have symptoms throughout their menstrual cycle. Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) a week or two before their bleed. This can leave you feeling irritable, upset, nervous and anxious. It is estimated that three to eight percent of people suffer more severely with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This can lead to severe depression, fatigue, trouble focusing and panic attacks [5] .”

On the other hand, according to Yoppie [6] , “as well as physical symptoms like cramps and headaches, PMS can include emotional symptoms like: tiredness and fatigue; teariness and emotional vulnerability; heightened anxiety and feeling generally unsettled. All this can mean that we are: Not feeling very sexy; more sensitive to criticism; reacting more strongly to triggers and wanting to withdraw and spend some time alone.”

In conclusion, mental health and the menstrual cycle are intricately connected, and changes in hormone levels during menstrual cycles can have a significant impact on a woman’s mood, emotions and mental wellbeing. It is important to recognize and address any mental health issues that may arise during menstruation, and seek professional help if needed.








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