Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones that make up and mediate women’s menstrual cycles. They are also major players in neuroendocrinology.
Progesterone, the natural, bio-identical form, not the man-made forms found in birth control pills called progestins, is an important hormonal tool in the neuroendocrine toolbox. I have used it to successfully treat many conditions such as seizures, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and movement disorders. What predicts progesterone’s ability to dramatically help with these types of conditions is when a woman observes a catamenial pattern to their occurrence, which means she has noticed that her symptoms happen at specific times during her menstrual cycle.
Estradiol is the most potent form of estrogen in our bodies. Estradiol can be used effectively to treat certain low mood states, and menstrual migraine headaches, and much more.
Neuroendocrinologists have observed three patterns of occurrence of catamenial symptoms that women describe over and over again, caused by estradiol and progesterone: Type 1 is within three days on either side of the onset of menses; Type 2 is within three days on either side of the midcycle ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary); and Type 3 begins around midcycle ovulation and lasts throughout the two weeks until menses, or even up to three days after its onset. In this last pattern the one week from around the third to the tenth day of the cycle is the only time without symptoms. The first day of menstrual bleeding of the monthly period is by convention called day #1 of each new cycle.
The first pattern, Type 1, is most common. An frequent example is PMS. The second most common pattern is Type 2. An example is menstrual migraine, which is typically triggered just after ovulation. The least common pattern, Type 3, is actually very common in women with temporal lobe epilepsy. These women have seizures much more commonly throughout the second two weeks of their menstrual cycles.
Based on how the hormones estrogen and progesterone rise and fall during a normal menstrual cycle, and how these two reproductive hormones effect the brain, it makes good sense why these patterns exist. To be continued…