New Study Busts Myth: Menstruation Does Not Affect Your Brain

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New Study Busts Myth: Menstruation Does Not Affect Your Brain
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A woman’s monthly period is often described as a harrowing battle involving hormones, which are closely tied to the emotions. This effect is used to explain the sudden mood swings and irritability experienced by women while they are menstruating. However, a myth that involves menstruation is that it causes cognitive problems, specifically problems with thinking and responding to certain situations. A new study busts this myth in its entirety.

Emotional Changes During Menstruation

Our general mood and emotions are largely affected by the hormones circulating in our body. During menstruation, the changes in your levels of estrogen and progesterone cause a rapid shift in mood. Women are more likely to be irritable and angry at the smallest things, and mood swings are very common. These emotional changes may or may not affect your productivity at school or work; it all depends on how strong your mood swings are. However, if your emotional changes are debilitating in nature, remember that Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) are real health problems and need to be treated as a medical condition. However, for the most part, these emotional changes during menstruation aren’t causing problems with your cognition — and that is the focus of Dr. Leeners’ study. [1][2]

Science Has Spoken: Cognition Isn’t Affected

Dr. Leeners’ study was published in mid-2017 in the Frontiers in Neuroscience journal and focused on the associations between hormone levels during menstrual cycles and three cognitive processes – visuospatial working memory, divided attention, and cognitive bias. The study was an observational multisite study that involved 88 women who were menstruating. They observed these women during two cycles of menstruation in order to rule out any false-positive findings. After the women’s menstrual cycles were over, the researchers found no strong association between estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and any of the cognitive processes. While negative associations were seen during the first cycle, they were not replicated during the second cycle. The researchers concluded that menstruation did not affect cognitive processing, and any negative associations that occurred during the first cycle were likely due to biases or practice effects.

Getting Rid Of Bias

The results of Dr. Leeners’ study has implications on our work ethic and biases in the workplace. Women have long been fighting for equality in the workplace and biases have long been made regarding their productivity due to their menstruation. This study is a great starting off point in getting rid of public bias against women, as well as getting rid of your own biases as a woman. Furthermore, if premenstrual and menstrual symptoms are bothering you and making productivity a challenge, you can try various home remedies to help with that:

– A heat pack works wonders with menstrual cramps – even better than ibuprofen. [3]

– Massage therapy with essential oils can also help with cramps and pain during menstruation. Massage therapy alone was effective in managing pain caused by endometriosis while adding essential oils to therapy added to the analgesic effect. [4][5]


[1] Mental Health.

[2] Leeners, B., et. al. (2017). Lack of Associations between Female Hormone Levels and Visuospatial Working Memory, Divided Attention and Cognitive Bias across Two Consecutive Menstrual Cycles.

[3] Rigi, S., et. al. (2012). Comparing the analgesic effect of heat patch containing iron chip and ibuprofen for primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized controlled trial.

[4] Valiani, M., et. al. (2010). The effects of massage therapy on dysmenorrhea caused by endometriosis.

[5] Ou, M., et. al. (2012). Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized, double-blind clinical trial.

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