What is the link between menstrual cycle and mood?

Cycle menstruel et humeur

“Wow, you're in a bad mood … Are you on your period or something?!” » A simple joke for some; a harsh and ill-timed comment for others. Many women have already been made this remark during a conversation deemed a little too heated by their interlocutor. Menstruation and irritation : an easy rhyme then. But does it correspond to reality? We can actually wonder if there is really a link between menstrual cycle and mood . Do the different phases of the hormonal cycle have an influence on the psychological state of menstruating people ? What are the historical beliefs and scientific conclusions on this subject? How do women today perceive this? Answers to discover in this article, if you feel like it!

Menstrual cycle and mood: what history tells us

Popular belief says that periods and bad moods are closely linked. But where does this image of women being particularly irritable and irritated during their periods come from? Probably from the many ideas and theories that have constructed the history of menstruation 1 . Indeed, from Antiquity to the 19th century , monthly losses are an enigma. How can we explain this exclusively feminine physical manifestation visibly linked to the miracle of conception? The mystery is great. To try to understand it, thinkers and doctors, influenced by the old superstitions and religious ideas of their time, developed different theses.

Since she has her periods, or suddenly no longer has them – when she is pregnant or menopausal – the woman is perceived as a figure who is both strange and unstable. Unwell, she is a defiled and impure creature, menstrual blood providing material proof of this impurity. He is blamed for many harmful effects on the world around him. It would have the evil power to rot meat, kill certain insects or cause flowers to fade.
At the same time and somewhat contradictorily, menstruation is seen as a healthy and beneficial purification phenomenon. Medically, it is a “natural bleeding” or a “safety valve”; on a religious level, it is the way to atone for one's sins, thus justifying the pain felt.
Conversely, others equate menstrual flow with a pathological dysfunction. From a psychological point of view, it would cause or amplify certain mental disorders assimilated to more or less temporary madness. Among these “menstrual psychoses” are kleptomania, pyromania, nymphomania and suicidal obsession.

In the middle of the 19th century , the phenomenon of ovulation was discovered. In 1924, Ogino's law made it possible to determine the precise date of occurrence. It is this growing understanding of the functioning of the female genital system and the entire menstrual cycle that is gradually changing representations and mentalities.

Menstrual cycle and mood: what science studies

The menstrual cycle became an object of scientific study from the 1930s. Gradually, researchers became interested in the effects of female sex hormones on psychological components such as cognitive functions, behavior and emotions. This interest is motivated in particular by the desire to explore and understand the differences between men and women in neuroscience.

Today, it is recognized that the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle modify the brain each month, which can affect the psychological state 2-3-4 . “Ovarian hormones affect the structure, chemistry and function of the brains of women of reproductive age, which could shape their behavior and mental health. […] Estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and can modulate neural circuits involved in affective and cognitive processes. » 3 This would explain the mood changes experienced by many women during their cycle. “Women have a significantly higher risk of developing mood disorders than men. Although the reasons for this gender difference are not fully understood, it is clear that changing levels of reproductive hormones throughout a woman's life cycle can have direct or indirect effects on mood. » 5 These changes in mood are mainly observed during the last week of the luteal phase, that is to say at the end of the cycle. They are among the symptoms of what we call premenstrual disorders , including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

PMS is a group of symptoms that occur in menstruating people about a week before their period and generally subside quickly after their onset (a few hours to one or two days). It combines physical symptoms – stomach aches, breast pain, etc. –, and psychological – irritability, agitation, sadness, insomnia, etc. It affects between 20 and 50% of women. The severe form of PMS, PMDD, is estimated to affect around 5% of the affected female population. 6 The symptoms are similar but much more intense, more painful and therefore more disabling on a daily basis: anxiety, stress, depression, despair, reduced self-esteem. PMDD is today classified as a depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.

But beyond these scientific considerations, what about the feelings directly expressed by the main stakeholders?

Menstrual cycle and mood: what women feel

In a survey carried out in 2021 on the impact of periods in their lives 7 , 81% of women questioned said they felt negative effects on their psychological state. Among the inconveniences observed, fatigue came first (80%), followed by irritability (71%), emotionality (64%) and a feeling of uneasiness in one's body (59%). Characteristic consequences of PMS, more or less strongly experienced.

As its name suggests, PMS manifests itself at the very end of the cycle. But this premenstrual phase is not the only one to be the scene of various changes in state of mind. Hormonal variations throughout the cycle can cause other emotions, sometimes positive and motivating. To illustrate this feminine cycle of moods, Gaëlle Baldassari, coach and initiator of the “ Kiffe ton cycle ” movement, uses the metaphor of surfing. She compares the phases of the menstrual cycle to the steps taken to brave and tame the waves.

According to this model:

  • the fact of being calmly placed on your board, tired after negotiating the last wave, corresponds to the menstruation period at the start of the cycle; hormones are at their lowest level, relaxation is complete; it is the right moment for rest, for calm, for analysis of what has just happened and what is looming on the horizon;
  • the 2nd part of the follicular period, just after menstruation, is marked by a surge of energy, a desire to act and great determination; it is the gaining of momentum, when a new wave is forming and we must gain speed to confront it;
  • when the wave is at its highest, like hormone levels, it is the ovulatory period; morale is high; the time is for sharing and communicating with others;
  • the cycle ends with the luteal phase, the full storm before returning to calm on his board; it is the tube of the wave, from which it is more or less difficult to escape, disrupted and upset by the possible symptoms of PMS.

Menstrual cycle and mood: a link established for a long time, rightly or wrongly, but not yet fully explained. Even if premenstrual disorders such as PMS are now recognized and increasingly diagnosed, the precise mechanisms explaining them remain obscure. And you, what about your emotions throughout your menstrual cycle? To help you feel good in your body and in your head every day, Perdième offers you a whole range of period underwear – menstrual panties , menstrual shorties , menstrual thong , menstrual swimsuits – and matching bras , efficient, comfortable and aesthetic. Don’t hesitate to test them!
And if you're feeling particularly curious, extend the discovery with the following articles:

Written by cd


  1. Le Naour, J.-Y., & Valenti, C. (2001, November 1 ) . Blood and women. Medical history of menstruation during the Belle Époque . Clio. History, women and societies . OpenEdition Journals.
  2. Liparoti, M., Troisi Lopez, E., Sarno, L., Rucco, R., Minino, R., Pesoli, M., Perruolo, G., Formisano, P., Lucidi, F., Sorrentino, G. , & Sorrentino, P. (2021). The functional topology of the brain network throughout the menstrual cycle depends on estradiol and correlates with individual well-being . Journal of Neuroscience Research, 99(9), 2271–2286.
  3. Manon Dubol, C. Neill Epperson, Julia Sacher, Belinda Pletzer, Birgit Derntl, Rupert Lanzenberger, Inger Sundström-Poromaa, Erika Comasco. Neuroimaging of the menstrual cycle: a multimodal systematic review . Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, Volume 60, January 2021, 100878, ISSN 0091-3022.
  4. Laura Pritschet, Tyler Santander, Caitlin M. Taylor, Evan Layher, Shuying Yu, Michael B. Miller, Scott T. Grafton, Emily G. Jacobs. Functional reorganization of brain networks across the human menstrual cycle . NeuroImage, Volume 220, October 2020, 117091, ISSN 1053-8119.
  5. Parry, B.L., & Haynes, P. (2000). Mood disorders and the reproductive cycle . The journal of gender-specific medicine: JGSM: the official journal of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia, 3(5), 53–58.
  6. Pinkerton, JV (2022, August 4 ). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) . MSD Manuals for the general public.
  7. French women, menstrual cups and the impact of periods on their lives . Ifop study for Intimina carried out by self-administered online questionnaire from April 17 to 18, 2021 with a sample of 1010 women, representative of the French female population aged 15 to 49 residing in mainland France. IFOP.