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Ovulation and Anxiety

Ovulation is, in many ways, the high point of the menstrual cycle. Fertility peaks, as does the body’s ability to withstand pain. You are at your best both mentally and physically. Why, then, is anxiety something many women report experiencing during ovulation?

Understanding the link between ovulation and anxiety in women's health.

Most aspects of the menstrual cycle are linked directly to hormones. While the emotions you experience are integrated with your personality, genetic and psychological factors, and general lifestyle, they are also influenced by the hormonal ups and downs intrinsic to the menstrual cycle, which ensure the body is prepared for reproduction. This includes negative feelings such as anxiety.

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Most people, regardless of age or gender, report experiencing anxiety from time to time, and an estimated 20% of Americans complain of anxiety disorder.


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It is normal to experience the full range of human emotions as we move through life, but most of us would agree that lasting anxiety can seriously interfere with quality of life.

When feeling anxiety your body will experience symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling “on edge” and a sense of impending doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Tension in the muscles and joints
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping and associated fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

For many of us anxiety manifests in social situations; apprehension and distress can become amplified when we interact with others. Social anxiety is a common mental health condition, but even so it can be difficult to overcome. Genetics and environmental factors, such as previous exposure to bullying, play a role in how well we cope with our anxiety.

For women, the menstrual cycle can contribute significantly to how we feel. Everyone knows about the dreaded PMS, when many of us feel anxious and irritable, but it may come as a surprise that women also report experiencing elevated anxiety during the 16–32 hours it takes for ovulation to run its course.

There are several possible explanations for this, including the body being flooded with hormones, your sex drive revving up, fear of getting pregnant, and PMS kicking in early.

Explanation № 1: It’s all those hormones!

It is always useful to review what we know about how the menstrual cycle works. The relevant information here is that oestrogen and progesterone peak during ovulation to prepare the body for a potential pregnancy. Approximately mid-cycle, elevated oestrogen stimulates the production of luteinising hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation—the release of an egg from one of the two ovaries; oestrogen is also associated with increased energy.

Among other functions, progesterone increases libido, improves mood, increases energy, and facilitates the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine lining. Progesterone also counters the effects of the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

While the presence of progesterone helps the body deal with stress, it also requires the body to produce more of the stress hormones for you to notice.

Your body is unconsciously ready for starting a new pregnancy, placing itself in a sort of a “fight-or-flight” situation.

In this context we can theorize that anxiety might arise for two different reasons having to do with the “sex hormones”. While the presence of progesterone helps the body deal with stress, it also requires the body to produce more of the stress hormones for you to notice. If you are facing a challenging situation around ovulation, it will take longer for your body to catch on to how you feel about it, potentially surprising you with an unusually high level of stress and anxiety.

Even without extra complications, both oestrogen and progesterone can increase energy; if your body produces higher-than-usual amounts of one or both, you may feel agitated on account of having “too much of a good thing”. Try putting your energy to good use by exercising or engaging in social interactions but look out for your well-being and don’t overwork yourself.

Channeling ovulation-related anxiety into positive activities like exercise and social interactions for better mental health

Incorporate regular mental health breaks into your daily routine. Take a breather to calm your anxiety, no matter what the cause.

Explanation № 2: It’s your libido!

Ovulation is that golden window in your cycle when you feel most ready for sex. During this time your sexual appetite can become quite powerful, putting you on edge. If your libido isn’t particularly insistent during the rest of the month, the intensity of arousal around ovulation might catch you by surprise.

Regardless of your relationship status, the prospect of sex and the social interactions leading up to it can be very stimulating, but not necessarily easy to realise. Suddenly feeling very aroused at work or in class can make a person anxious.

While it isn’t as easy to detect as the male erection, sexual arousal in women is a complex process that affects the whole body. You may as well get comfortable with how your body reacts when it’s ready for sex and enjoy the ride.

If you have penis-in-vagina sex, remember to use protection if you aren’t ready to become pregnant. It’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment with your arousal intensified by ovulation. After all, that’s what your body is primed for just then.

During ovulation some women report feeling strongly attracted to different men than they are usually interested in, but there are few studies investigating this phenomenon.

Explanation № 3: It’s baby anxiety!

This explanation is for couples actively trying to conceive as for them ovulation is the most important time of the month.

As mentioned above, of the roughly 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation lasts for only about a day. It is a small window of time when a woman is at her most fertile and experiences all the sensations associated with this state of being. If you want to get pregnant, track your cycle for several months until you can predict when ovulation will occur with reasonable accuracy; for most women it’s around day 15 of their cycle.

Today period apps allow you to track not only when you bleed but also dozens of physical symptoms, mood, appetite, sex life, birth control, and most importantly for identifying the ovulation window—your body temperature and the consistency of your cervical mucous. As you input information, the app will begin to predict days for menstruation and ovulation based on data from the previous cycles. So, within a few months your ovulation day can be determined rather precisely.

Couples who are trying to conceive consciously engage in sex with the purpose of creating a baby. Sex is unpredictable as it is and having an added mission cause significant psychological strain for both partners. If doctors are involved in monitoring the couple’s fertility, there are often additional things to think about such as dietary restrictions, natural remedies and medications, and routines or sex positions that are most likely to help you conceive. All this can take a toll on the poor parents to be, especially if they have been trying for a while.

See if you can relax about the goal and go back to enjoying the process again. Appreciate each other and remember what it’s all about.


Explanation № 4: It’s PMS/PMDD!

Given that ovulation only lasts for an average of 24 hours, it is quite possible that the day you expect to be ovulating you are already beginning the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, meaning that PMS is kicking in.

Anxiety and irritability are very common in the pre-menstrual phase, are experienced to some degree by almost everyone who menstruates. Not everyone has a regular cycle, though.

Your cycle can be disrupted due to stress at work or home, because of a dietary change, or any number of other physical, psychological, or environmental factors that can influence the hormones and your general well-being. Track your cycle and log the symptoms you experience to get a picture of how your cycle affects your mood over time.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, can also cause strong PMS symptoms to appear early on in the premenstrual phase.  

Overcoming anxiety

If you notice yourself feeling anxious during ovulation for several months in a row, try tracking your symptoms to see if they follow a certain pattern or are associated with some circumstance in your life. An OB/GYN, general practitioner, or other medical specialist can help you monitor your hormone levels and look into other health conditions that might be causing your symptoms.

If the reason for your anxiety is more psychological than physical, cognitive behavioural therapy can help you understand your emotional patterns and develop habits that make difficult feelings more manageable.

Improving your work/life balance and paying attention to sleep hygiene can make a big difference, and there are many relaxation techniques that can help reduce anxiety with just a little regular practice. Some of these are:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Light aerobic exercise
  • Grounding exercises

A common grounding exercise for managing anxiety is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Whenever you are feeling agitated and not quite right in your skin, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and bring your attention to your body for a moment. Then open your eyes, look around, and name (out loud or in your mind) five things you can see (window, table, cat…); four things you can hear (a car driving by, the washing machine…); three things you can feel (your hands on your lap, your toes in your shoes, your backside against the chair…); two things you can smell (coffee brewing, flowers on the table, your gym socks in the corner…); and one thing you can taste (a chocolate chip cookie or even just your tongue).

This is a mindfulness technique that uses sensory awareness to shift your attention away from stress and anxiety to being present in the world. As you lead your life in this ever-changing world, be gentle with yourself and track your menstrual cycle to get some perspective on how your body reacts to thenchanges and what it needs to feel at ease.

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Menstruation, by definition, comes with flow—the cyclical discharge of the uterine lining. Just like is says on the packaging of feminine hygiene products, your flow can be light, heavy, or “normal.” But normal will be different for different bodies.
Anxiety is a normal part of our lives. It comes at moments of stress and when we face something new and unfamiliar. Anxiety can present as anything from mild feelings of unease to severe distress—impaired breathing, increased heart rate, an anxiety attack.
Headaches. Sore breasts. Mood swings. Irritability. Cramps. Fatigue. Trouble sleeping. Bloating. Food cravings. Acne. PMS is not kind.