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Irritability, sadness, and anxiety can be a consequence of your hormone levels. Find out how progesterone and estrogen affect your menstrual cycle.

Hormones are essentially chemical messengers released by glands, which travel through our body to tissues and organs, instructing them what to do. They play a very important role in puberty and the menstrual cycle. They also control heart rate, sleep cycles, metabolism, appetite, growth and development, body temperature.... Practically everything! In fact, they make sure the body grows and functions as it should.

Because they are so powerful, they can also sometimes change the way we feel. The mood swings, irritability, sadness, and anxiety you may feel since puberty can be due to those pesky hormonal changes. So it's perfectly normal to feel a little more emotional or sensitive than usual.

Let's take a look at the main hormones that accompany puberty and how they can affect you, so you can better understand what's going on inside your body.

Let's talk about estrogen

You've probably already heard the name of this hormone when learning about puberty and the menstrual cycle in school. Estrogen plays a very important role in our sexual and reproductive development. It is produced mainly in the ovaries, but small amounts are also produced by the adrenal glands and fat cells.

Estrogen begins to be produced during puberty and continues to be produced by the body until menopause when it declines. Estrogen levels also change throughout the month, rising in the middle of the menstrual cycle and falling during the menstrual period.

Although estrogen is a sex hormone, it controls much more than the menstrual cycle and sexual growth. It can also affect mood, urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, breasts, skin, weight, hair, pelvic muscles, brain, and bone health - you could say estrogen is a multitasker.

Let's talk about progesterone

Progesterone is also produced in the ovaries and is released just after ovulation, during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Its function is to strengthen the lining of the uterus so that there is a pleasant environment in the uterus for a potential baby. This means that whether you want to become a mother or not, your body produces progesterone just in case. But if there is no pregnancy in sight, the levels of this hormone drop, and the lining of the uterus simply sheds like blood from your period.

Let's talk about testosterone

When someone mentions testosterone, we may automatically associate it with masculine qualities, but in reality, we all have some testosterone in us. This hormone is also produced in the ovaries (and yes, in the testicles in the case of men) and in the adrenal glands, just like estrogen. The balance between testosterone and estrogen helps our ovaries function properly - think of them as a team working together!

Hormones and your mood

Like most things in puberty, hormones have many pros and cons. Increased estrogen levels during ovulation can make us feel energetic and even a little sexual, an increase in progesterone can leave us feeling hot and craving sugary foods. But on the other hand, when estrogen starts to drop and progesterone starts to rise, we can experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which often translates into anxiety, mood swings, and aches and pains.

Why do hormonal changes make me feel like I am in an emotional up and down during my menstrual cycle?

It's not just what happens at school or at home that can affect our emotions. Even when our life is perfectly stable, we may not feel good. This is because, within our body, hormones are constantly changing throughout our cycle, which can impact the way we feel.

Although hormone levels go up and down, they tend to follow a pattern around our menstrual cycles. Here's what to expect in each phase:

Phase 1: go with the flow from days 1 to 7.

Levels of this hormone are at their lowest on the day your menstrual flow begins (known as day 1 of your cycle), which means you may lack energy. In addition, you may feel menstrual pain in the first few days of bleeding and your breasts may feel very heavy and/or tender, so it is normal for you not to be in a very good mood.

Phase 2: Feeling energized between days 8 and 14

Energy at its peak after menstruation? Thanks to the rise in estrogen and progesterone levels. Use this week to do something you didn't think you had the confidence to do, whether it's talking to that classmate, signing up for a competition, or volunteering for a project.

Phase 3: Take it easy on days 15-21.

You may have heard the phrase "Everything that goes up must come down" and such is the case with estrogen. As its levels drop, combined with the rise in progesterone, you may feel slightly deflated. Ovulation is the big event this week, which means you are now more likely to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex.

Phase 4: PMS goes through days 22-28.

Also known as PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) week, during this period estrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels plummet, often resulting in a lower-than-usual mood. Because of this hormonal shift, we tend to experience mood swings: don't be surprised if you suddenly become irritated by something like a friend's way of eating or if you scream because you missed the bus by a nanosecond.

What if the phases of my menstrual cycle don't feel right?

If you think what you're experiencing isn't "normal" (if your moods drag on for weeks, if you feel out of control, or if your period pain is too intense), don't hesitate to ask a friend, family member, teacher, or doctor for help. After all, it is completely natural to talk about our menstrual cycles and there is no reason to suffer in silence.

Finding out more about your body can help you better understand what you're going through and help you feel more at ease. If you want to learn more, you may find it helpful to research what menstruation is and how to deal with puberty (and menstruation). 

Consult your physician: The medical information in this article is provided as an informational resource only and should not be used or relied upon for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Consult your physician for guidance on a specific medical condition.