Your period is mere days away, and suddenly easy tasks require Herculean effort, focusing is just not happening, and you can’t seem to remember a n y t h i n g? Yeah, us too. Turns out, “PMS brain” isn’t just something made up—it’s legit. Hormone changes around this time of the month can cause brain fog. Below, Susan C. Allen, co-founder and chief brand officer of Here We Flo, breaks it down.
Things like PMS brain can be treated as though they’re a myth dating back to days when women were accused of hysteria. But it’s not all in your head. This is something real.
While the research on PMS and brain fog is inconclusive, many reproductive health specialists know it to be a true symptom people experience both before and during their periods.
PMS brain can happen because of a few different things, including changing hormones.
The hormone changes during the menstrual cycle can lead to changes in the brain. As those of us who have menstruated can attest, this can trigger symptoms like tension or anxiety, depressed mood, mood swings, irritability, anger, insomnia, and food cravings.
These hormonal changes can also trigger—ding, ding, ding—brain fog. Research has found that estrogen and progesterone impact neurotransmitters that deal with the brain’s plasticity, memory, mood, and cognition. Additionally, in a typical cycle, estrogen levels dip prior to the period starting, and guess what has been linked to cognitive impairment? Yep, low estrogen levels.
Unfortunately, we can’t change or control our hormones, but we can influence them and prepare ourselves for what we know is coming. (This is especially true if you have a regular cycle, and you may even be able to pin your symptoms down to the day.)
Here are some things that we can do to help prepare ourselves for PMS brain and to make it, at the very least, a bearable experience:
Although we might be craving ice cream and cookies, choosing fruits and vegetables instead is more likely to help us feel healthier and better equipped to handle these symptoms.
Also, try to avoid beverages with caffeine and alcohol. They are challenging for our body’s systems to handle, which are already dealing with the changes that are coming along with our cycle.
It cannot be underestimated how much just a simple walk and fresh air can do to help your mood, whether you’re premenstrual or not. Exercise is also proven to help you sleep better.
Take it from me, a mom of two under five. I’m a much better mom (and person in general) when I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, and I think that goes for everyone. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can cause brain fog on their own, so let’s not pile that on top of our hormonal changes.
If your PMS symptoms are bordering on debilitating, it’s possible that you may have a more serious condition like premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which comes with additional symptoms, such as depression. So if you are having real trouble managing these, I encourage you to speak to your doctor.
Up next, be the first to know our weekly content and sign up for our Poosh newsletter.