Meno Health. Clinical Evidence.

TWC #018: Always these mood swings…

Today on our own behalf…

The next Meno Meet-up will take place in Basel.

What: We’ll have a relaxed chat among women about meno symptoms and solutions.

When: Thursday, 7 September 2023, 19:00

Where: QuartierOASE, Bruderholzallee 169, 4059 Basel

How much: free of charge

Registration: By email to

«The Women Circle’s Meno Meet-Up was incredibly helpful for me. I learnt so much about the symptoms and how to deal with them. It was also great to meet other women going through the same challenges. I am grateful for the support of The Women Circle!»
Marjan P.

We are happy to meet you in person.

Always these mood swings…

You always have mood swings, but you don’t know why. They come and go. Those around you don’t understand you.

Mental health problems and mood swings can occur very frequently during the perimenopause and menopause. Suddenly you become very emotional and start crying over something small.

It’s one of the most common symptoms that women seek help for. So you’re not the only one.

The hormones are crazy!

There is a direct link between the changes in oestrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause and the psychological and central nervous symptoms that women suffer from.

Oestrogen is thus associated with mood swings such as

  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS),
  • premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and
  • postpartum depression.

However, exactly how oestrogen affects emotions is less clear. Too much oestrogen or too little?

What is a normal oestrogen level?

Normal oestrogen levels vary greatly. Large differences are typical for a woman on different days or for two women on the same day of their cycle. The actual oestrogen level measured says nothing about emotional disorders.

The influence of oestrogen on the brain

This does not mean that oestrogen does not play an important role in regulating mood. Oestrogen acts everywhere in the body, including in the parts of the brain that control emotions.

Oestrogen has the following effects:

  • It increases serotonin production and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain.
  • It changes the production and effect of endorphins, the «feel-good» chemicals in the brain.
  • It protects the nerves from damage and possibly stimulates nerve growth.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict what these effects mean for an individual woman. The effects of oestrogen are too complex for researchers to fully understand.
For example, despite the obvious positive effect of oestrogen on the brain, many women improve their mood after the menopause when oestrogen levels are very low.

Oestrogen and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Up to 90 per cent of all women experience unpleasant symptoms before their period. If these symptoms are so severe that they impair quality of life, they are referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Bloating, swollen arms or legs and sensitive breasts are the most common physical symptoms. Excessive feelings, depression, anger, irritability, anxiety and social withdrawal can occur. Between 20 and 40 % of all women suffer from PMS at some point in their lives.

Oestrogen and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Similar to PMS, women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) regularly suffer from mood swings before menstruation. Some experts consider premenstrual dysphoric disorder to be a severe form of PMS.

In PMDD, the mood symptoms are more pronounced and often overshadow the physical symptoms. The emotional disturbances are so severe that they lead to problems in daily life. Between 3 % and 9 % of women suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Oestrogen appears to play a role in these mood swings, but exactly how is still a mystery. Oestrogen levels in women with PMS or PMDD are almost always normal. The problem may lie more in the way estrogen «talks» to the parts of the brain responsible for mood. Women with PMS or PMDD may also be more affected by the normal estrogen fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.

Oestrogen and postpartum depression

Having the «blues» after giving birth is so normal that it is considered normal. Nevertheless, 10 to 25% of women experience severe depression in the first six months after giving birth. The abrupt drop in oestrogen after childbirth seems to be the obvious culprit – but this link has never been proven.

Oestrogen and perimenopausal depression

In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), oestrogen levels are irregular and unpredictable. During perimenopause, up to 10% of women suffer from depression, possibly due to unstable oestrogen levels. Some studies suggest that the sole use of a transdermal oestrogen patch can alleviate perimenopausal depression.

Oestrogens and postmenopausal depression

During the menopause, oestrogen levels drop to a very low level. Interestingly, taking oral oestrogen in post-menopausal women does not lead to an improvement in depression. In large studies of hormone replacement therapy, women taking oestrogen reported the same mental health as women taking a placebo. After the menopause, the rate of depression in women decreases.

What can I do about my mood swings?

First and foremost, you need to talk about it! Try to clarify whether you are suffering from menopausal symptoms and whether your behavioural changes are related to the change in hormone levels. If those around you, your partner, your children and your relatives understand the situation, they will be more understanding and tolerant towards you.

Recognise your symptoms for what they are: You are not suffering from a mental illness and are not losing your personality, you are simply dealing with hormonal fluctuations that are affecting your brain.
Relaxation and meditation exercises are another way you can help. Avoid overwhelm and try to find time to relax. It’s important to find out what does you good: a mediation session, a walk in the woods or listening to pleasant music.

There are food supplements based on St John’s wort or saffron that can be very effective. The Women Circle will soon be launching a product to alleviate mood swings.
If the discomfort is very severe and the situation escalates into depression, antidepressants can help. Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer and are therefore not allowed to take hormone treatment can take antidepressants. Sometimes even small doses lead to an improvement in well-being. Discuss the risks and benefits for you with your doctor.

Finally, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also be a very good option. It’s worth talking to your doctor about whether hormone replacement therapy is suitable for you.

Enjoy the summer and see you next time!

Get in touch if you have any questions. We are here for you.

Joëlle & Adrian

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