The Physiology Behind Mood Changes Part I

Perimenopause is a time of drastically changing female hormones.  Even before women notice changes in their menstrual cycles, the hormones, estrogen and progesterone are shifting.  This is often why women do not realize they are in perimenopause.  Their menstrual cycles may appear as normal and regular as always, but behind the scenes, hormonal changes are underway.  Most women do not know that even though they are menstruating, they may not be ovulating, throwing their hormones, and subsequently their moods, out of balance.

So, what does the onset of perimenopause have to do with our moods? 

Estrogen and progesterone are the primary female hormones that undergo major shifts with the onset of perimenopause.  These hormones, while responsible for female sex characteristics (the female body and procreation), are also highly influential in our moods.  They affect our feelings of calm, anxiety, nurturing, romance and productivity.  We can see that when the hormones shift, so will women’s moods.

As we will learn in Part II, it is during ovulation that calming progesterone is produced and released.  With ovulation being so unpredictable, women’s moods are vulnerable to unpleasant shifts.  Meanwhile, estrogen levels are vacillating wildly.  In a given day, estrogen levels may be high and low… a number of times. Vacillating estrogen levels are notorious for increasing anxiety and decreasing patience and tolerance.  Declining estrogen levels are influential in reducing the desire to nuture, in making women feel less driven and productive and disrupting replenishing sleep.

This is the very unpredictable nature of the perimenopausal transition and why women often feel they are on emotional rollercoasters.

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