Does your mood sometimes depend on your cycle?


Have you ever cried because you missed your train? Or has your day already started badly because your favorite socks were in the laundry basket? Or have you become irritated a little too quickly when the person walking in front of you stops unexpectedly? I hear you! And a few days later, I got my period and think, “Oh, that was it! Phieuw, I did not understand myself for a moment”. And because of how our society is set up, you would almost feel guilty for your totally normal mood swings. Or worse, they are used against you. “Wow, Sarah, today just a bit irritable, time of the month ?!” I would love to quote Rachel from Friends: 

“No uterus, no opinion.”

But how does it all work organically? Are our mood swings understood, or are we exaggerating? And does the vaginal microbiome have anything to do with it?  

You, me, and 75% of the women are certainly not exaggerating and suffer from PMS or premenstrual syndrome

PMS has several symptoms, including physical and emotional. Among the physical ones are breast tenderness, abdominal swelling. Emotional symptoms include irritability, fatigue, hypersensitivity, and depression. All of them happening days/hours before your period. The complaints are sometimes severe enough to jeopardize your daily functioning. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) affects as many as 3 to 8% of women, which causes them to suffer from severe depression a week or even two before their period. 

And you can hear us coming… The exact cause is not yet known, but it is thought that the hormonal fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle can play a significant role. Scientists suspect that estrogen and progesterone’s rise and fall after ovulation influence serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, sleep rhythm, and appetite. Low serotonin levels have therefore been linked to sadness, irritability, and, in addition to sleeping problems, and an unusual appetite. Now is the question of the century. What can you do about it? Be sure to talk about this with your doctor, gynecologist, and immediate environment. Sometimes, birth control or cognitive behavioral therapy is a possible solution.   

Does your stomach sometimes get tangled up after a long time worrying? Do you sometimes think that your gut and brain have frequent conversations? You are right because your digestive system and head, directly and indirectly, connect with each other by exchanging signals. And the bacteria in your intestines love to chat with each other and with your brain. Scientists called this the ‘Gut-Brain Axis‘ or GBA, so a new research field was born. Several studies are about the link with neuropsychiatric disorders (such as autism, schizophrenia…), probiotics’ effect on depression, and the fundamental aspects of cause-effect.  

The critical question now is whether the millions of bacteria in our vagina also send signals to our brains or vice versa. Is there even a Vagina-Brain Axis or a Gut-Vagina-Brain Axis? Not much research has been done on this either. Some studies on laboratory animals have already found that vaginal microbiota can contribute to maternal stress during pregnancy. It could even be that microorganisms in the vagina contribute to the development of fetuses’ brains. However, more research is badly needed. We did not find any studies investigating a relationship between mood and the vaginal microbiome. That is why we will go into this more deeply with Isala. And secretly, I also want to know whether that piece of chocolate reassures my vaginal microbiome in addition to my dopamine levels… 😊   

Here and here you can also find some tips. But let us know in the comment section below if you have any useful tips because every bit helps. 

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Isala wants to break the taboo around vaginal health. That’s why all our research kits contain great conversation starters  (also online available). Use these cards as inspiration for interesting chats with friends and family, and find out how much there is to say about vaginal health.

You can also start a conversation online by clicking on a question and adding your response. You can do it anonymously – your first name is fine. The Isala researchers will answer your question. This way, we can increase knowledge about the female microbiome and break the taboo together. That’s our dream at Isala. Feel free to add comments and ask questions – let’s start the conversation together!