Menstrual cycle and mood
November 26, 2017 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me identify resources to better understand how menstrual cycle influences mood, and weigh in on a couple of questions I have?

My menstrual cycle has always seems to have a marked effect on my mood, energy and clarity of thought (both positively and negatively). I've jotted informal notes about my noticings for years, but now that I've started using Planned Parenthood's Spot On app, I've got a craving to better understand how exactly my fluctuating hormones affect me.

I want to nail down the patterns I see so I can try to (a) recognize when my hormones are taking the reins, (b) alleviate the negative effects, and (c) if possible, try to accentuate the positive ones. I guess I want to try hacking the system!

Problem is, I haven't found a lot of resources that are comprehensive, not filled with woo, and easy to understand. Any recommendations for books, sites, blogs, etc?

I'm also looking for information about how hormonal birth control can affect mood. I'm interested in the idea of using HBC to suppress my period for the sake of convenience (20+ years of monthly bleeding is a lot!), but I'm hesitant to mess with my hormonal balance because, although there are a few days per month when I'm reliably downbeat and low energy, I don't want to give up the other few days a month when I'm reliably peppy, energetic and feeling great.
posted by the thought-fox to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
The most information available regarding cycles and blood-hormone levels are related to in/fertility, because historically women only have the one purpose so who cares if they feel bad or whatever, so it's never been a huge market priority otherwise. You could start with Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which will give you the basics of the estrogen-progesterone cycles and charting (see here for a primer on FAM), which is generally how people gather data about their cycles without access to blood tests). From there you may have to hunt down some science journals to get a hold of comparative data (which will only be moderately useful because you'd have to have daily or at least weekly bloodwork to get much information about your own cycle to compare, but you can make educated guesses).

I think all menstruating people would benefit, if it's possible, from 1-3 months of daily charting. Be aware though that it can trigger surprising levels of health anxiety if you're prone to it.

The internet was a pretty huge leap forward in regular-person-accessible information around all this, and may still be your best starting point. Scarleteen has primers on pretty much everything, and there's often good references pinned on fertility-related message boards. It is pretty difficult to find any paper books that aren't selling various flavors of woo.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:35 PM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]



I'm also looking for information about how hormonal birth control can affect mood. I'm interested in the idea of using HBC to suppress my period for the sake of convenience (20+ years of monthly bleeding is a lot!), but I'm hesitant to mess with my hormonal balance because, although there are a few days per month when I'm reliably downbeat and low energy, I don't want to give up the other few days a month when I'm reliably peppy, energetic and feeling great.


I wish you luck in finding rigorously researched information about this but don't get your hopes up. I can tell you that most people who report no negative effects or even positive effects are people who didn't enjoy their mood changes in the first place. those of us who love feeling like glowing power monsters a good week or two out of the month are very likely to hate what happens. which, for me, was a comprehensive flattening out of all sensations including moods and libido. so instead of having two weeks per month which YES, one week which NO, and one week of who knows, I got four solid weeks of ok I guess, if I must. for sex as for everything else.

It was the way people who don't like antidepressants describe the effect of antidepressants: a fuzzy curtain between you and the world, sort of like you put all your emotions in the back of a drawer but you forgot which one. you know they're still there in your possession somewhere but you can't actually put your hands on them. in summary, I hated it and wish I hadn't spent several years of my life assuming this was just a normal thing that happened as you progressed through your twenties and/or a required price to pay for being a woman. the latter is basically true, in that it is not something they used to warn you about and not something doctors care about unless you are suicidal. I will never touch those fucking drugs again in any formulation. Other side effects varied with the brand, but this one was constant across all of them for me.

however, everything went back to normal when I stopped taking them. and this, too, is pretty usual. so you could experiment with few different hormonal birth control options without committing yourself to it long-term. some people do love them. but do not let anybody talk you out of valuing the way you feel and the way your body works in its current state, that is always exactly as important as you think it is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:53 PM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the Hormone Horoscope/Hormonology app. It lets me track my cycle, and each day/week it gives me a "horoscope" which is actually a layperson's description of what is typically happening at that point in a menstruating person's cycle in terms of mood, energy level, etc. Although the name makes it sounds a bit woo, and the writing tends to be very informal, it is based on actual scientific literature. This app has made a huge difference for me in that it has validated the ups and downs that I feel on a regular basis that are hormonally driven, and it reminds me that all of it is both normal and temporary! The daily horoscope also sometimes gives suggestions for alleviating/taking advantage of certain symptoms/good days. I use the free "lite" version of the app, which has been sufficient (though I haven't tried the "pro" version). Over time it has become less interesting/exciting to read the daily updates because I've gotten so much more in tune with my own personal nuances. I should note that I have a hormonal IUD, and one of the effects that I like about is that it does a little to smooth out the intensity of my emotional roller coaster, but it certainly doesn't flatten it for me.
posted by On a lark at 1:01 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


I started taking a multivitamin (including magnesium) and that smoothed out the intensity of my emotional roller coaster. For what it's worth, there's a name brand magnesium called "CALM."

Here's a search result that might be what you're looking for. It has citations so you can find more like it.
posted by aniola at 3:30 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


My wife swears by an app called Clue, as it has lots of fairly fine-grained ways to track different aspects of her cycle, like mood, cravings, physical sensations. Plus you can define your own tags and define further levels of detail.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:03 AM on November 27, 2017


I've found this site very useful and have recently been formally diagnosed with PMDD. https://giaallemandfoundation.org/about-pmdd/. I am currently taking an oral contraceptive pill (have tried many forms - different pills, skipping the inactive ones, NuvaRing, estrogen patches in luteal phase, being off HBC completely) but it does not appear to impact the mood cycle. At this stage I am switching anti-depressants and use diazepam sparingly. There is a treatment flowchart here which may guide discussions with your care team: https://giaallemandfoundation.org/treatment-options/. Best wishes to you!
posted by cybele at 5:33 AM on November 27, 2017


Oh, also! Clue (the app) mentioned above is great but I actually found it easier to go old-school for tracking and used this template for three months and took those paper copies into my GP appointment for us to discuss.
posted by cybele at 5:54 AM on November 27, 2017


This is very simplistic but I still find it useful as a reminder http://www.cbc.ca/stevenandchris/health/your-time-of-the-month
posted by Lucy_32 at 7:04 AM on November 27, 2017


Seconding hormone horoscope. I have the paid version and consider it well worth it.
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2017


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