Perimenopause is a time of drastically changes female hormones. Even before women notice changes in their menstrual cycles, the hormones, estrogen and progesterone are shifting. As perimenopause gets underway, as early as the late thirties, women begin having annovulatory cycles, cycles in which no ovulation takes place. Even without ovulating, she may still menstruate.
So, what does this have to do with our moods? It is during ovulation that progesterone is produced and released. When there is no ovulation, there is no production of progesterone. Progesterone is the ‘feel good’ hormone; it is the calming, soothing antidote to the very energizing (and sometimes stress-inducing) estrogen. So, with no ovulation, there is no progesterone, leaving women without one of their most calming hormones. This may result in women feeling stressed, high-strung or very much on edge.
Simultaneously, estrogen levels are vacillating wildly. In a given day, estrogen levels may be high and low. Estrogen also influences mood by increasing anxiety and decreasing patience and tolerance.
Changes in the production of these hormones do not follow a linear pattern. A woman may have months of normal cycles followed by a stretch of irregular cycles. There may be cycles in which she does ovulate followed by any number in which she does not. This is the very unpredictable nature of the perimenopausal transition and why women often feel they are on emotional rollercoasters.