• Do you sometimes feel like you do not recognise the woman in your life?
  • Do you notice changes in how she shows up in your relationships during different times of the month or season of her life?
  • Do you wish you understood more of what she was experiencing so that you could deepen your relationship?

I will to keep this simple and factual! No woo woo, I promise! And as much as I would love to launch into a speech to undo the myths and long held beliefs about periods, I will keep it short, sweet & hopefully informative!

Cyclical V Linear Hormone Patterns

Women have a different endocrine (hormone) system to men…sound obvious? Unfortunately, this is not how real life tends to play out.

Depending on where a woman is in her monthly cycle or phase of life, will affect the levels of hormones she has.

These hormones do so much more than give women periods or make babies…..they literally affect EVERYTHING…. cognitive function, mood regulation, energy levels, immunity, digestion, sleep, skin elasticity, and yes, libido!

Women need the Goldilocks amount of hormones to feel good…too much or too little and symptoms show up. This is why when the hormones feel like they have gone AWOL in menopause, women experience symptoms.

These traits of hormone imbalance do not usually appear overnight, but can creep in gradually until you may feel like you do not recognise the woman in your life (in fact she may feel she does not recognise herself, which is scary place to be)…sudden onset anxiety, low mood, sleep disruption, low energy, loss of confidence, brain fog, irritability, no libido, rage….these can all be linked to hormones.

This can be incredibly difficult for the men in our lives to understand as it is not something you experience, which can make empathy challenging at times and cause conflict.

In summary, men have linear (same thing every day) hormonal patterns and women have cyclical (monthly fluctuations) patterns. We are different.

The Monthly Cycle

This image shows the ebb & flow of hormones throughout a woman’s monthly cycle. The rise of the Oestrogen is mid cycle (approx. 14 days after the first day of her period) and is where ovulation occurs. IF ovulation has occurred (and it doesn’t every month) she will produce Progesterone. If no conception takes place, all of the hormones drop off until her period starts again, repeating the cycle.

Now, to give this meaning, we need to understand that these hormones have different effects on how women feel. Outside of the reproductive cycle they protect women’s long-term health & make us feel well.

For the sake of ease, let’s consider Oestrogen as the sexy party girl of the hormone world – think Beyonce vibes! She supports cognitive function, optimises serotonin and dopamine lifts mood and confidence, gives energy, improves libido, and helps with focus. Too little and women can feel low or brain fogged; left unchecked and we can see PMT and mood swings.

Progesterone, on the other hand, is more like the zen yoga chick, there to keep Oestrogen in check, create calm, and support sleep. Without her, women can feel frazzled, overwhelmed, and anxious, often experiencing sleep issues.

It therefore makes sense that depending on which hormones are peaking and troughing, will affect how women might feel at different times.

If a woman is using synthetic hormones in her body like the pill or Mirena coil, the above cycle is shut down and looks like the image above. The contraceptive medication contains a version of Progesterone called a progestin – this is a bigger conversation, but it can cause side effects such as anxiety and mood imbalances and the bleed she might have is not a true period but a withdrawal from the medication.

Menopause

From the age of 35, women ovulate less and less, which usually means a steady decline in Progesterone’s benefits.

This is why we see mood imbalances and symptoms starting to appear as women get older. Plus, the more exhausted our adrenals are, there harsher these symptoms tend to be. The average age for women to enter true menopause (12 months after their last period) is around 50.

HRT during this time, for those women who choose this, can be really helpful at protecting long-term health outcomes for them whilst managing some symptoms caused by hormonal deficiencies. Plus, things generally balance out post menopause when women’s hormonal cycles mirror men’s, being largely the same thing every day.

Hormones & The Brain

You can see in the image below the parts of a woman’s brain that are covered in these hormone receptors. If a cell has a receptor, it means it relies on that hormones to do its job optimally. Therefore, it would make sense that as these hormones fluctuate the brain (and other bodily systems) are affected.

Now the message here is a far cry from the outdated eyeroll of “oh it must be the time of the month” narrative!

This is an evidence-based approach acknowledging that the way women show up in the world is different to men – we need to factor in the fluctuations and adapt our lifestyle if we want to show up as the best version of ourselves and feel well – something most men want for the women in their lives.

The same thing every day approach to life works really well for you fellas, but does not support best outcomes for women. Trying to smash the gym, work, rest and play in the same way week in, week out does not serve women but works brilliantly for men who do the same thing everyday from a hormone perspective.

Some weeks we are on fire and others we need to create non-negotiable time to slow it down a bit – it takes a lot of energy to break down the lining of an organ (uterus), bleed, and repair within a couple of days! Showing up for your partner in a supportive way during this time is often welcomed!

It is essential to not burn out adrenals by pushing through at times when the body may need fewer demands – for example, this would be the ideal time to pick up some things off of the to-do list and a yummy bar of chocolate never goes amiss! By working together in this way, creates much more unity and understanding in relationships, avoiding conflict.

Finally…

Obviously, it is deeper than chucking the odd bar of chocolate in during a woman’s premenstrual phase – relationships can be tough and need work to thrive.

My hope here is that if we can acknowledge that women are not small men because we have a different endocrinology, we can find a way to work together. Women (and relationships) are paying the price by crash landing into menopause exhausted and depleted. Through a small amount of understating and communication, I truly believe that relationships can flourish regardless of the impact hormones might!

If you are keen to learn more about how to support you partner, please do feel free to reach out to me.