Let's get something straight before we get into this any further: there's nothing wrong with getting emotional or feeling moody when your period is about to make an appearance, regardless of how many times society has told you that big girls don't cry (thanks a lot, Fergie). That doesn't necessarily mean you have free reign to stomp around and be cruel to everyone, Regina George style, but just remember that you're not a weak person merely because you suddenly get tearful or feel upset. These are pretty typical experiences that come with having a menstrual cycle.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 85 percent of menstruating women experience at least one PMS symptom on a regular basis. Hopefully, knowing that you're in the majority gives you some comfort. Some of the most common period symptoms include cramps, fatigue, changes in appetite, and, the real kicker, mood swings. For anyone who has ever menstruated, I doubt any of this is news.
But even though we've become accustomed to the emotional ups and downs every month, we may not know exactly what it is that causes such dramatic changes. Bustle spoke with Alyssa Dweck, M.D., gynecologist in New York, assistant clinical professor OBGYN at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and author of V is for Vagina, who says there are many different things that can "cause
changes in your emotional wellbeing" right before and during your period. It helps to know what they are, because we may have more control over some of them than you might think.
Here are seven reasons your period is making you feel emotional.
1. Your Hormones Are Fluctuating Wildly
"Hormones are very volatile during certain parts of your cycle," Dr. Dweck says. In particular, estrogen is known to take you for a rollercoaster ride. It rises slowly just before menstruation hits, but then drops suddenly when you start bleeding. Then it increases once again when your period ends, only to peak two weeks later. Dr. Dweck also names progesterone as another hormone affecting your mood swings, since it also drops significantly whenever your period starts. However, right before you menstruate, during your PMS days, your progesterone levels are pretty high, which could account for feeling dreary or hopeless.
I'm pretty sure even a robot couldn't even manage to ward off mood swings if she were getting jerked around that much — and as we'll see below, these changes directly affect your serotonin levels, so it's no wonder you feel emotional.
2. Your Serotonin Levels Are Diminished
Strangely enough, the hormonal changes you experience also influence how the chemicals in your brain function. "Neurotransmitters in the brain probably have something to do with PMS symptoms," Dr. Dweck says. Research suggests that serotonin drops when your period starts, due to all the hormonal fluctuations. Low amounts of serotonin in the brain are associated with depression, irritability, and intense cravings for carbohydrates, which is pretty much PMSing in a nutshell. In her book Moody Bitches, psychiatrist Dr. Julie Holland explains,
Lower estrogen levels cause serotonin levels to drop precipitously a few days before menstruation, which may be the basis of many PMS symptoms. Low levels of serotonin are implicated in depression, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder ... you're even more physically sensitive to pain than usual, and more emotionally sensitive to criticism. You're less resilient in the face of stresses and feel sadder, hungrier, and more scared, tearful, and angsty.
3. You're More Susceptible To Pain — And You're Experiencing More Of It
Physical pain is never a pleasant thing to endure. Think about someone who has a splitting headache or a gnarly stomachache. Do you find them to be a joy to be around? Are they smiley and up for anything? No, of course not. They're probably easily annoyed by your antics and just want to be left alone. Not only are you dealing with cramps before and during your period, but hormonally, as Dr. Holland explains in Moody Bitches, "your pain tolerance is at its lowest point during PMS. Not a great time to go to the dentist or get waxed." It's a double whammy.
4. You're Not Eating A Balanced Diet
5. You're Not Sleeping Enough
6. You're Not Exercising Regularly
Choose what aerobic activity suits you best. It could be weight training, swimming, yoga, or even a stroll outside at sunset. Lower impact movements will probably be best for you when you're bleeding. Don't feel like you have to push yourself to the limit to get the results. Remember, you're shooting for more energy and better moods, not a world record.
7. You Have Undiagnosed PMDD
The Bottom Line
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