27 Oct 4 spooky surprises about your hormones
BY GABRIELLE LICHTERMAN
- Getting into the Halloween spirit is easy when you have a menstrual cycle. That’s because your hormones have four hauntingly hair-raising effects on you!
OCTOBER 27, 2021—Ready for a Halloween fright? You’ll be chilled to the bone when you discover the spooky surprise about your hormones that lurks in each week of your menstrual cycle….
Week 1: Your hormones turn into a mind-reader
Once you get your period, signaling the start of Week 1 of your menstrual cycle, something unexpected happens to you: You’re able to detect what someone is feeling by simply looking at them more accurately than you could in the second half of your cycle (your Week 3 and Week 4). For example, a friend may be talking cheerfully about a trip she took over the weekend, but you get the sense that she’s actually feeling disappointed about it. Or a coworker may be telling you about a promising meeting she just had with a potential client, but you get a hunch that she’s actually worried about its outcome.
What’s behind this surprising mind-reading superpower? Rising estrogen. According to research in the journal Pscyhoneuroendocrinology, as your level of estrogen climbs, it makes you better at picking up on subtle cues about other people’s emotional states because this hormone makes a certain emotion-processing part of the brain–the amygdala–function better.1 And this emotion-detecting ability continues all the way through ovulation (at the end of your Week 2) when estrogen peaks.
Week 2: Your hormones make you more easily spooked
Expect to jump with surprise more frequently when you hear sudden loud noises during your Week 2, which is the week leading up to and including ovulation. For example, you might leap when someone drops a dish in the kitchen or automatically dart away when a road maintenance crew starts jackhammering as you walk by.
The reason? Spiking estrogen, according to a study in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.2 When your body’s level of estrogen climbs high in your Week 2, it improves your hearing ability, enabling you to hear sounds more sharply than in other weeks of your cycle. A high level of this hormone also increases brain arousal, which means you’ve got a lot more mental energy. The result: You have more intense acoustic startle response, which is your inner alarm telling you, “Hey, that pop, bang or screech sounds like something bad could be happening, so watch out!”
Week 3: Your hormones get you grossed-out
You may want to skip gory movies and pass over haunted houses when choosing what kind of Halloween activities to join in on during your Week 3, which is the eight-day span that starts right after ovulation. Witnessing disgusting scenes, such as eyeballs being ripped out of someone’s skull or a fake bloody hatchet hanging out of someone’s head, can make you queasier on these cycle days, studies show.3
Why? As researchers explain it, rising progesterone during your Week 3 increases your disgust sensitivity, which is your reaction to revolting images. Their theory is that this hormonal effect may have developed to help you steer clear of potential threats in case you got pregnant during ovulation at the end of Week 2 and now need to be more cautious.
Week 4: Your hormones make you quicker at spotting danger
During your Week 4, which are the final six days of your cycle, it’s easier to skirt any kind of danger that veers into your path. That’s the news from a study in the journal Scientific Reports that found you’re faster on these pre-period days at spotting potential hazards that come out of nowhere, like a snake slithering by or a car that drives out of its lane, compared to other times in your menstrual cycle.4
Credit for the quick observations goes to plunging estrogen. As your body’s level of estrogen falls before your period, it creates changes in the brain that increase both anxiety and awareness of your surroundings, so you’re extra-wary and ready to take evasive action!
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Happy Halloween! Here are 4 spooky surprises I bet you didn’t know about your hormones! Learn more: MyHormonology.com/4-spooky-surprises-about-your-hormones
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(1) Birgit Derntl, et al., “Facial emotion recognition and amygdala activation are associated with menstrual cycle phase,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33 (2008): 1031-1040
(2) Diana Armbruster, et al., “The impact of sex and menstrual cycle on the acoustic startle response”, Behavioural Brain Research, 274 (2014): 326-333
(3) Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, et al., “The progesterone level, leukocyte count and disgust sensitivity across the menstrual cycle,” Physiology & Behavior, 161 (2016): 60-65
Diana S. Fleischman, Daniel M.T. Fessler, “Progesterone’s effects on the psychology of disease avoidance: Support for the compensatory behavioral prophylaxis hypothesis,” Hormones and Behavior, 59 (2011): 271-275
(4) Nobuo Masataka, Masahiro Shibasaki, “Premenstrual enhancement of snake detection in visual search in healthy women”, Scientific Reports, 2 (2012): 307
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