Mental Health and Menstruation have existed since ages but has been overlooked. In country like
India, our preoccupation with various superstitions, taboos and stigmas associated with periods; and
with discussions only revolving around the associated physical discomfort; the topic of mental health
during periods is more often than not, ignored.
There are several factors which can affect one’s mental health and mood during the menstrual cycle-
A large role is played by our Genetic Predispositions which effect the physical aspects such as the
menstrual flow and the associated pain. Research has found out that our genes also impact the
onset of menstruation (as well as menopause). Genetics also impact our personalities to a certain
extent. Hence, our outlook towards the menstrual cycle gets influenced by our genes.
Social factors such as one’s financial situation, religious and cultural values and family support also
affect mental health during menstruation. This often comes as a double whammy because in various
societies mental health and menstruation are both stigmatized! Lack of support by partners and
family makes mental wellness during periods an area which nobody even wants to talk about.
When hormones play their tunes!
Women often feel like a slave to their Hormones – and they often are. This becomes more prominent
because of the hormonal fluctuations during our cycle. While the middle of the cycle brings about
feeling of increased general well-being, as we get closer to our periods –anger and anxiety take
center stage. This is because fluctuations in hormones impact brain chemicals called
Two of the most common we are aware of are serotonin and dopamine. Both these hormones are
more popularly known as the ‘happiness’ hormones. While serotonin regulates mood, anxiety and
happiness, dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure and focus on things. And low levels of
these two hormones result in not just food cravings but also unhappiness, anxiety and overall
Stepping up Self-Care
Diet and exercise can play a major role in rebalancing our mood during our cycle. While the
menstrual phase calls for limiting fatty food and alcohol along with light movements for exercise;
ovulation phase can easily accommodate high intensity workouts with whole fruits and vegetables.
It is a no-brainer that overly fatty foods, lots of dairy, excess salt, red meat and alcohol should be
limited during the entire cycle. Yoga is a great way to not just balance our hormones but to stay
active during the entire menstrual cycle.
Unfortunately, someone suffering from existing mental health conditions, especially depression,
suffers even more during the periods with frequent mood swings and enhanced melancholy. It is
also found that one impacts the other – mental health issues can cause menstruation related
disorders and vice-versa. Hence, managing both with some simple yet effecting strategies is the way
forward. Here’s how one can go about it:
●Exercise regularly, even if it is mild
●Limit alcohol, caffeine and sweets
●Choose food which is rich in fibre and protein
●Learn to read and predict your emotional reactions to various stimuli
●Manage your stress levels and learn healthy coping mechanism
●Regulate your sleep patterns
●Have a strong network of women you trust, and lastly
●Do not be afraid to seek professional help – from a therapist and/ or a gynaecologist
While 100% of the world’s population has ‘mental health’, out of this, close to 50 percent also
‘menstruate’ or get periods – that is the women. Not surprisingly then, the link between mental
health and periods is of great importance. Efforts to destigmatize and normalize mental health and
menstruation is needed to save women from the greater risk of poor health.