The Impact Of Menstruation On Mental Health
It’s safe to say that, for the majority of women, menstruation is not a time of the month that is eagerly awaited. Along with symptoms such as cramps and bloating, menstruation can also put a strain on a woman’s mental health, whether this is due to hormonal changes or environmental factors.
While it might not be possible to completely eliminate the mental health side effects that menstruation can present, it is possible to treat them. By being aware of the factors that cause those situational feelings of anxiety, depression, and moodiness, you’ll be better equipped to deal with those unwanted feelings when they arrive.
PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
For so long, an angry or frustrated woman has been the but of too many jokes that she must be “hormonal” or “PMSing”. However, PMS should be treated as more than just a punchline: it is a medically recognised condition that’s thought to affect between 20-40% of women and takes place about two weeks before their period.
The lack of funding and research into women’s health means that the precise causes and triggers of conditions like PMS are still unknown to us. However, it is thought that fluctuations in estrogen levels around this time could be to blame for the feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, and moodiness that so many women are used to feeling.
The good news is that these feelings are completely natural, and by reminding those around you when your period is due, you can help to avoid any unpleasant interactions before they occur. It is also important to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the mental space to feel what comes naturally to you.
Symptoms of PMS are not limited to mood swings, however. As if mood swings were not enough, there are a variety of physical symptoms that many women face during their period which can impact their mental health.
In the lead-up to their periods, women may experience a whole range of changes such as greasy hair and skin (which can lead to acne), as well as changes to their sex drive and sleeping difficulties. These physical changes can greatly impact a woman’s self-esteem, especially if she is already showing symptoms of PMS.
Unfortunately, the symptoms do not stop at the premenstrual stage. Some of the most unpleasant physical symptoms that women report facing, such as migraines, nausea, or dysmenorrhea (period pain), occur during menstruation itself. These can severely disrupt a woman’s daily routine and cause unnecessary stress, especially if they are severe and persist for long enough.
Though severe pain during menstruation should be investigated by a doctor, it is possible to relieve some of these physical symptoms by being aware and prepared for them to occur. Simply carrying painkillers around with you, or keeping a hot water bottle nearby can do a world of good to relieve the stress of being caught out by unexpected period pain or bloating.
We’re told over and over that our bodies are a temple, but what about the effects our diet has on our minds? Unfortunately for menstruating women, period cravings make it extremely difficult to maintain any sort of healthy diet. Though this excuse to indulge in unhealthy food may be a short-term blessing for many women, the mental health effects of certain foods are not quite so beneficial.
Over the years, numerous studies have confirmed that a bad diet may be just as harmful to our mental health as our physical health, and sugary foods are a particular issue. Over time, strong correlations have been found between high sugar intakes and conditions such as anxiety and depression – bad news for menstruating women, who may be used to comfort eating during periods of PMS or other menstrual-related stress.
Though these cravings are perfectly natural and it is unlikely that the occasional spike in sugar levels will affect your long-term mental health, it is worth remembering that these foods have the potential to worsen any feelings of moodiness or depression you may already be feeling. Sometimes the ultimate self-care ritual you can perform during your period is to whip up a salad, rather than reaching for the chocolate.
Lack of Awareness
Even with the progress that has been made in women’s health over the years, menstrual taboos have not completely disappeared and still continue to affect women’s mental health and wellbeing. These issues are particularly noticeable in the workplace (especially in male-dominated work environments) where many women suffer through their symptoms in silence for fear of embarrassment or judgment.
There are many reasons as to why women may feel anxious or stressed to menstruate at work, and a lack of facilities can play a key factor in this. Some workplaces still do not provide adequate sanitary waste disposal facilities in women’s bathrooms, despite sanitary bins being a legal requirement. This can cause huge discomfort and worry for women, some of whom even fear leaving the house during their period because of heavy menstrual bleeding.
Of all the ways that women can change their lifestyle and their habits to help make their periods as smooth as possible, stigma is a problem that does not have an easy solution. It’s only through open conversation and spreading awareness that women can begin to feel supported, and menstruate without fear of embarrassment or judgment – whatever their symptoms may be.
Please check out our other services pages to find out more about the services we offer and contact us for more details.