According to research conducted at the University College London, women at a certain phase in their menstrual cycle could be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects linked with stressful experiences. The results of the study suggest a monthly window of opportunity that could be a time when efforts to prevent common mental health problems developing in women could take place. This study is the first to show a possible association between psychological vulnerability and the timing of a biological cycle, in this case, ovulation.
Researchers looked at whether the effects of a stressful event were linked to various stages of the menstrual cycle. Forty-one women between the ages of 18 and 35, with regular menstrual cycles and not using the pill as a form of contraception, participated in the study. Each women watched a 14-minute stressful film that contained death or injury, and provided a saliva sample to measure hormone levels. Each participant was asked to report any unwanted thoughts about the video for days following the viewing.
The study found that women in their early luteal phase (16-20 days after the start of their period), experienced 3 times as many intrusive thoughts as those who watched the movie in other phases of their menstrual cycle. These findings indicate the tight window within the menstrual cycle when women are particularly vulnerable to experiencing distressing symptoms after a stressful situation. This study could provide important implications for women’s mental health problem and the treatment in women who have experienced traumatic events.