Menstrual Cycle Doesn’t Change How A Woman’s Brain Works, Study Finds

HANNOVER, Germany — It’s long been thought that a woman’s menstrual cycle can cause her to become so volatile that it’s clear her brain is somewhat out of order. There are plenty of difficult side effects that come with having a period, but a new study finds that when women menstruate, their attention, memory, and other cognitive functions aren’t affected as so many are led to believe.

Researchers from the Medical School Hannover and University Hospital Zürich studied 68 women to monitor how their brains worked during different stages of the menstrual cycle. The authors keyed in on cognitive processes and sought to determine whether levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone impacted one’s memory, cognitive bias, or ability to pay attention to two things simultaneously.

Woman thinking or praying
Despite many long-running beliefs, a new study finds that a woman doesn’t experience changes to cognitive functions during her menstrual cycle.

The participants were monitored for two consecutive menstrual cycles, and though there was some hormonal changes during the first period that seemed to affect cognitive bias and attention, the results didn’t stand during the second period.

None of the hormones examined showed any notable effect on the participants’ cognitive functions.

“As a specialist in reproductive medicine and a psychotherapist, I deal with many women who have the impression that the menstrual cycle influences their well-being and cognitive performance,” says study author Professor Brigitte Leeners in a press release. “The hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle do not show any association with cognitive performance.”

Leeners and her team found that participants’ performances simply did not change over time and that having a period shouldn’t impact her ability to work at a normal level.

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“Although there might be individual exceptions, women’s cognitive performance is in general not disturbed by hormonal changes occurring with the menstrual cycle,” adds Leeners.

Still, Leeners suggests more tests involving more participants are needed to better understand how menstruation impacts a woman’s brain, especially for women with hormone disorders.

At the very least, she hopes people will begin to look at periods in a more positive light and hopefully ease off of the stereotypes associated with them.

The study was published this week in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

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