Time of the Month Affects Breathing Woes

Asthma symptoms and troubles breathing change throughout phases of menstrual cycle

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Maybe allergies are not to blame if women are coughing more at certain times than others.

New research shows that the different phases in the menstrual cycle affect breathing problems and asthma symptoms in women.

"Pronounced cyclical variations among asthmatics but differences in patterns according to various characteristics, suggests that adjustment of asthma medication to the menstrual cycle may prove feasible and efficient…," according to the authors.

"Track your breathing problems."

Researchers aimed to find any changes in breathing problems throughout a woman's menstrual cycle.

The stages of the cycle affect fluid buildup in women, as well as the parts of the body that control inflammation and muscles in the bladder, uterus and intestinal tract.

The study, led by Ferenc Macsali, MD, in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, included 3,926 women with regular menstrual cycles of 28 days or less and who were not taking extra sex hormones, which bind to estrogen in women.

They were about 39-years-old on average, with a normal weight body mass index.

Women who were pregnant, on the pill, had hormone replacement therapy, had hit menopause or had irregular periods were excluded from the study.

Researchers asked participants about their breathing patterns at the start of their menstrual cycle, or the day after they finished their period. They also tracked whether women had asthma or smoked.

They also measured participants' body mass indexes, which is a calculation of height and weight together.

Women kept track of their breathing symptoms each day for all 28 days of their menstrual cycle.

Researchers found a common pattern with each breathing issue or symptom throughout a woman's menstrual cycle.

In the middle of a woman's cycle during days 10-22, women reported wheezing more.

Wheezing temporarily eases up around days 14-16 when women start ovulating, or when the egg is released from the ovaries, among most subgroups.

During days 7 through 21, women most reported shortness of breath, with another dip just before the middle of the cycle.

Women who smoke, have asthma or are overweight (with BMIs greater than 23) coughed more often after or just before ovulating.

“Our finding that respiratory symptoms vary according to the stage of the menstrual cycle is novel, as is our finding that these patterns vary according to BMI and smoking status,” Dr. Mascali said in a press release.

“These relationships indicate a link between respiratory symptoms and hormonal changes through the menstrual cycle.”

Dr. Mascali said that the results should coerce medical professionals to tailor respiratory therapy for each person "according to individual symptom patterns.”

“Adjusting asthma medication, for example, according to a woman’s menstrual cycle might improve its efficacy and help reduce disability and the costs of care,” he said.

In their report, researchers recommend that doctors advise women with asthma to keep track of their symptoms during several menstrual cycles.

The authors note that they relied on patients answering surveys accurately for their results, and the length of women's menstrual cycle varied from person to person.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine from the American Thoracic Society.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 8, 2012
Last Updated:
November 11, 2012