Women’s mental health has often been overlooked and understudied. 

And, just like many physical health issues, biological sex and societal gender norms affect how mental health issues manifest and present (1, 2). Throughout history, many mental health issues have been overlooked and diagnosed as female hysteria (3).  

The menstrual cycle, perimenopause, and menopause mark significant stages in a woman's life, each bringing its own set of changes and challenges. Often, discussions about these phases focus primarily on the physical symptoms and overlook the direct or indirect impacts they can have on mental health.

Understanding these changes, from mood fluctuations tied to the rhythmic dance of hormones during the menstrual cycle to the more unpredictable shifts that characterize perimenopause and the uncertainty of menopause, is vital for mental and emotional well-being. It’s also incredibly important for getting the best out of our training and sports performances. Mental health has a profound impact on how we think about ourselves. Achieving goals and training harder needs an incredible amount of resilience and when our hormones are working against us, sometimes we take it out on ourselves.

This blog post explores how each of these life stages can affect mental health and the steps we can take to manage it.

Menstrual Cycle and Mental Health

Overview of the Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is a natural process that typically spans approximately 28 days, although it can vary from woman to woman. It is divided into several phases: Early Follicular, Mid Follicular, Ovulation, Mid Luteal, and Late Luteal. Each phase is characterized by specific hormonal activities that not only regulate reproduction but also significantly affect various other aspects of health, including mental well-being.

Hormonal Fluctuations and Mood

The relationship between hormone levels—particularly estrogen and progesterone—and mood is complex. These hormones do more than regulate the menstrual cycle; they also influence neurotransmitters in the brain that control mood and emotion. 

Changes in their levels can lead to noticeable shifts in how a woman feels and behaves:

  • Estrogen helps to modify the serotonin levels in our body, which can enhance mood and overall sense of well-being (4). But it has been linked to depression too (5)
  • Progesterone is known for its calming effects, but its levels drop sharply before menstruation, which can cause mood swings and irritability (6). 

Common Mental Health Challenges

During different phases of the menstrual cycle, women may experience various mental health symptoms, including:

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): While PMS is widely recognized for its physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD is a more severe form, causing significant mood disruptions that can impair daily functioning (7).
  • Anxiety and Mood Swings: Fluctuations in hormone levels can trigger anxiety and lead to mood swings, particularly during the Late Luteal phase, just before menstruation begins. (8, 9, 10)

Other factors

The menstrual cycle can indirectly impact mental health in various ways, particularly through physical symptoms that affect body image and self-perception. Many women experience bloating, weight fluctuations, and skin changes such as acne, which can emerge due to hormonal shifts, especially in the days leading up to menstruation. These physical changes can be annoying at best and distressing at worst, which may affect a woman's confidence and body image. 

Additionally, symptoms like cramps and headaches can contribute to a sense of malaise or illness, compounding feelings of frustration or vulnerability. This confluence of physical discomfort and altered appearance can significantly influence mood and mental well-being, making it crucial to address these issues in discussions about menstrual health and self-care. These symptoms can also cause sleep disturbances, which has an impact on mental health. 

The menstrual cycle can also impact cognitive function, with many women experiencing brain fog at various points in their cycle. This can impact work, school and other areas of life which adds to anxieties and deepens any depressive thoughts, especially if you aren’t aware of the links between these symptoms and the menstrual cycle. 

Navigating mental health and the menstrual cycle

Diet: A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help with stabilising and improving mental health (11). A good diet can also lead to better overall health, and feeling good can help improve overall mood. 

Exercise: regular physical activity can boost endorphin levels to combat stress and anxiety (12). 

Stress Management Techniques: Mindfulness, yoga, and other relaxation practices can be effective in reducing the emotional upheavals associated with the menstrual cycle.

Supplements: Ashwagandha and Beetroot powder can positively impact mental health, promoting calmness, reducing anxiety, and improving cognitive functions (13). 

Medication: For those with PMDD, endometriosis and other conditions, getting a diagnosis and medical help is vital to improving mental health around the menstrual cycle. However, due to bias in healthcare, getting this support is increasingly difficult. 

Therapy: Talking through problems with a mental health professional can be incredibly uplifting. While it can take a while to find the right person, having a set time to talk through problems can help you feel supported.

Perimenopause and Mental Health

Understanding Perimenopause

Perimenopause marks the transition toward menopause, beginning years before menopause officially occurs when the ovaries gradually start producing less estrogen. This stage typically starts for women in their 40s but can begin earlier (14). The duration and onset of perimenopause can vary significantly among individuals, making it a uniquely personal experience. During this period, women may encounter a wide range of symptoms due to the fluctuating levels of hormones in their bodies.

Mental Health Symptoms

One of the most striking aspects of perimenopause is its impact on mental health. Women may notice more frequent or severe mood swings and increased feelings of anxiety or sadness. These emotional fluctuations often correlate with hormonal changes, which can disrupt well-established patterns of mood and behavior. However, some links to perimenopausal mental health symptoms can be linked to a woman’s previous experience with premenstrual syndrome (15).  For some, these shifts can intensify existing mental health conditions, while others might experience new challenges:

  • Increased Anxiety and Depression: As estrogen levels decline irregularly, it can lead to heightened anxiety and trigger depressive episodes (16, 17). This is often made worse by the sleep disturbances commonly associated with perimenopause, such as night sweats and insomnia (18, 19).
  • Mood Swings: Hormone levels can be unpredictable, causing rapid changes in mood, similar to those some experience before their menstrual period but often more pronounced (15).

Navigating Mental Health During Perimenopause

Addressing mental health during perimenopause involves acknowledging the complexity of the symptoms and recognizing the need for comprehensive care strategies:

  • Regular Medical Check-ups: Keeping in touch with healthcare providers to monitor health changes and adjust care plans as needed is crucial. This includes discussing mental health openly.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Other Treatments: For some women, HRT can help stabilize hormone levels and mitigate some of the mood-related symptoms (20). However, it's important to discuss the benefits and risks with a healthcare provider to make an informed choice.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Regular physical activity, a nutritious diet, and good sleep hygiene can support emotional health. Engaging in stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, or other hobbies can also be beneficial.

By understanding the hormonal underpinnings of mental health challenges during perimenopause, women can better prepare for and manage these changes. Effective strategies involve both medical solutions and lifestyle adjustments to enhance well-being during this transitional period.

Menopause and Mental Health

Defining Menopause

Menopause is the natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years, typically diagnosed after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. This phase usually begins in the late 40s to early 50s. Menopause is primarily the result of a decrease in the production of reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.

Psychological Effects of Menopause

The cessation of menstruation and the associated hormonal decline can have significant mental health implications. The decrease in estrogen, in particular, can affect the brain's regulation of mood and emotional stability (16, 17). The menopause process and post-menopausal changes can impact mental health in a few ways

  • Emotional Impact: The transition through menopause can stir a mix of emotions, from relief at ending the monthly cycles to sadness or grief related to fertility and aging.
  • Mood Changes: The hormonal changes can also lead to an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Women might experience greater vulnerability to mood swings and feelings of sadness.
  • Body image and self-esteem: Weight fluctuations, body composition changes, loss of bone density, and muscle weakness can raise issues with confidence, image, and esteem.
  • Brain fog: Many women find that memory and focus are impacted by menopause. This can often impact mental health, either from frustration or reduced self-confidence.

Support and Management

Effective management of mental health during menopause involves both understanding the physiological changes and addressing the emotional dimensions:

  • Community and Professional Support: Joining support groups where experiences are shared can be comforting. It is also beneficial to consult with mental health professionals who can offer therapy or counseling that addresses menopausal challenges.
  • Diet and Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity and eating a nutrient-rich diet can help manage weight, improve mood, and reduce symptoms of depression. (21)

Navigating menopause with an awareness of its impact on mental health allows women to better manage the changes that come with this stage of life. By combining lifestyle modifications with appropriate medical care, it is possible to maintain a high quality of life through menopause.

Section 4: Managing Mental Health Across Phases

Integrated Health Strategies

The connection between menstrual health and mental well-being is undeniable, and managing this relationship effectively requires a comprehensive approach. 

Tracking hormonal symptoms and mental health can help women understand the links between their hormonal fluctuations and how they are feeling. This can help with medication and self-management techniques. Wild.AI can help women track their hormonal symptoms, cycle and symptoms as well as various mental health symptoms. The Trends tab in the app can show the link between the different symptoms and your hormones so you can see over time how your mental health tracks with your hormones. 

Nutritional supplements, for example, can play a crucial role in maintaining hormonal balance. These supplements might include vitamins and minerals that support hormone production and mood regulation, such as B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids (22). Additionally, personalized fitness plans, such as those provided by apps like Wild.AI, can be adapted to the specific needs of women at different stages of their hormonal cycles, enhancing overall health and well-being.

Managing mental health related to the menstrual cycle involves a combination of lifestyle changes and possibly medical interventions. Always speak to a medical professional before making any changes to your routine or diet. Speak to a therapist as often as you feel you need to. Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

So, what does this mean for training and performance?

Mental health fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, perimenopause, and menopause can significantly impact an athlete's training and performance, affecting everything from daily motivation to a competitive mindset. Understanding and addressing these effects is crucial for maintaining both well-being and athletic success.

Decreased Motivation and Energy

Hormonal changes can lead to periods of low energy and decreased motivation, particularly during the premenstrual and menstrual phases, or throughout perimenopause. This can make it challenging for athletes to initiate or sustain the intensity of training sessions. Adjusting training plans to include more rest days or lighter workouts during these times can help maintain overall fitness without overwhelming the body.

Self-Perception and Performance Anxiety

Fluctuations in mental health can alter how athletes perceive their abilities, often leading them to feel inadequate or overly critical of their performance. This can be exacerbated by hormonal shifts that influence mood and cognitive function. Coaches and trainers can help by setting realistic expectations and providing positive reinforcement, which can buffer the harsh self-critique many athletes face during these times.

Challenges in Maintaining a Competitive Edge

The mental strain caused by hormonal changes can also affect an athlete's competitive mindset, making it hard to stay focused and aggressive when needed. Strategies such as mental skills training, including visualization and mindfulness, can be incorporated into regular practice to enhance mental toughness and maintain a competitive edge, even on difficult days.

Physical Symptoms Impacting Mental Health

Physical symptoms like cramps, bloating, hot flushes, and fatigue affect the body and the mind by diminishing the sense of physical readiness and strength. This can lead athletes to feel unprepared to achieve personal bests or compete effectively. Tailoring training and recovery strategies to accommodate these symptoms can help maintain a more consistent performance level.

Building Resilience Through Supportive Practices

Encouraging open communication within the team about mental health challenges and their impacts can foster a supportive environment that empowers athletes to seek help when needed. Incorporating team-based activities that focus on building mental resilience can also prepare athletes to handle the psychological ups and downs associated with their hormonal cycles.

By proactively addressing the mental health impacts of hormonal fluctuations, athletes and coaches can better navigate the complex relationship between mental state and athletic performance, leading to improved outcomes and a healthier, more supportive training environment.


As we've seen, the shifts in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, perimenopause, and menopause can profoundly influence mental health. These transitions are not merely biological processes but pivotal life events that can reshape a woman's experience of her mental landscape. By understanding the intricate links between hormonal changes and mental health, women can better prepare for and address the emotional nuances of each phase.

Proactive mental health management, involving lifestyle changes, therapeutic interventions, and community support, can significantly alleviate the challenges posed by these hormonal shifts. It is essential for women to recognize these changes as natural and to seek guidance and support when needed.

This discussion serves as a reminder of the power of self-care and informed support networks in maintaining mental health. By fostering an environment where women feel equipped to discuss and manage these changes openly, we can improve not only individual well-being but also enrich our broader communities. Let us move forward with empathy and insight, supporting each life stage with the attention and respect it deserves.


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