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The Monthly Remodelling: How Periods Reshape Your Brain

The Monthly Remodelling: How Periods Reshape Your Brain - The Sabi

By Hilary Metcalfe

Forget the commonly assumed female superpower of multitasking, your brain's got a whole other level dynamic going on. Every month, it undergoes a hormonal metamorphosis, reshaping itself in sync with your menstrual cycle.

This isn't some fringe theory – it's cutting-edge science that's rewriting the narrative about the female brain. It’s something only recently discovered in groundbreaking research conducted by The Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University Clinic in Leipzig, Germany and it sheds light on the fascinating connection between menstruation and brain plasticity, revealing that our brain is constantly changing throughout the cycle. 

Have you ever noticed a shift in your focus or memory during different phases of your cycle? Science is now catching up to what many women have intuitively known:

Periods are a powerful biological process that impacts not just our bodies, but our brains as well.

This newfound knowledge unlocks a deeper understanding of ourselves and opens doors to optimising our cognitive potential throughout the month.

Estradiol and Progesterone Take Center Stage

Recent research delves into the impact of ovarian hormones, particularly estradiol and progesterone, on brain structure throughout the menstrual cycle. Estradiol, reaching its peak around ovulation (around day 14) , plays a critical role in the reproductive system. Progesterone, dominant in the latter half of the cycle, prepares the uterus for a potential pregnancy and exerts calming effects. The findings revealed a captivating story: brain regions critical for memory and spatial navigation, like the medial temporal lobe and the hippocampus, showed increased size during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) when estradiol levels were high and progesterone was low. In essence, throughout the menstrual cycle, hormones like oestrogen and progesterone nudge our brain to remodel itself, especially in areas like the frontal lobes (linked to mood and decision-making) and the hippocampus (important for memory).

This might explain the emotional rollercoaster some experience.

The hormonal shifts could heighten sensitivity in the frontal lobes, making us more aware of emotions, while the hippocampus could be getting a temporary boost, leading to sharper memories.

How Does This Remodelling Happen?

While the exact mechanisms are still being explored, scientists have some intriguing working theories. Imagine your brain like a complex network of highways and bridges. Estradiol, the hormone peaking around ovulation, might be like a construction crew working to build new connections between brain cells. These connections, called synapses, are essential for how brain cells communicate and transmit information. Estradiol might be promoting the growth of these synapses, potentially by influencing the production of proteins needed for building them. This could explain the enhanced memory and focus some women experience during the follicular phase (high estradiol).

Progesterone, taking centre stage in the latter half of the cycle, might act differently. Instead of building new connections, it might be like a traffic coordinator, optimising communication along existing pathways. Progesterone could be influencing the release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that shuttle information between brain cells. This could explain why some women feel a shift towards more creative or introspective activities during the luteal phase (high progesterone).

The way our brains respond to these hormonal fluctuations can be as individual as we are. Genetics and overall health can influence how sensitive we are to hormonal shifts. So, while some women might experience a surge in focus and analytical power during the follicular phase, others might not feel a significant difference.

From Science to Your Daily Life

The good news is that by understanding these connections, we can start to optimise our brain power throughout the month. By tracking your cycle, you can identify your cognitive strengths during different phases.

Here are some tips to leverage your strengths:

  • Follicular Phase (High Estradiol): Sharpened Focus and Analytical Power (Usually, days 1-14)
    • Tasks to prioritise: Tackle analytical projects, presentations, studying for exams, brainstorming solutions to complex problems, learning a new skill that requires focus (e.g., a new language).
    • Tips: Schedule important meetings or deadlines during this phase. Utilise to-do lists and time management techniques to maximise productivity.
  • Ovulation (Peak Estradiol): Heightened Energy and Decision-Making (Around Day 14)
    • Tasks to prioritise: Close important deals, negotiate contracts, lead brainstorming sessions, take initiative on new projects.
    • Tips: This is a powerful time to assert yourself and confidently present your ideas.
  • Luteal Phase (High Progesterone): Enhanced Creativity and Emotional Intelligence (Usually, days 15-28)
    • Tasks to prioritise: Engage in creative endeavours (writing, painting, music), participate in team building exercises, focus on communication and interpersonal relationships.
    • Tips: This is a great time to collaborate with others and tap into your empathy and emotional intelligence.

Optimising Your Cycle: It's All About Awareness

This newfound knowledge about the brain's monthly remodelling is empowering. By becoming more aware of how our brains function throughout the cycle, we can not only optimise our cognitive performance but also gain a deeper understanding of our overall well-being.

The Future of Period Science

The exciting thing is that research into period-induced brain remodelling is still in its early stages. Scientists are actively investigating the exact cause-and-effect relationships between hormones and brain changes. Additionally, they're exploring potential implications for mental health conditions that might be linked to hormonal fluctuations. This research holds the promise of revolutionising how we view and manage our menstrual cycles, not just from a physical standpoint, but also from a cognitive and emotional perspective.

Hilary is the Co-Founder of the SABI, a Holistic Nutritionist, natural, whole foods Chef, product developer and advocate for women getting to know their bodies, cycles and selves better. Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Baja California, Mexico, she now lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with her partner Kees, a curly-tailed rescue dog, Flint and her rainbow baby, Paloma. 
Created as a brand to help women navigate the toughest moments in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum — and practically every stage of life –– The SABI aims to change the narrative around our hormones from one of taboo, embarrassment, and loneliness to awareness and pride. As more than a wellness brand, The SABI offers a carefully-crafted line of products to carry you through your hormonal journey, including rituals, supportive tools, and ancient herbal remedies that have been tested time and time again by women and now come backed by medicine. The SABI is a blend of science and nature conceived by women who have experienced the joys and deep struggles of bringing a child into the world, the pains of a heavy, difficult period, miscarriage, and difficulty conceiving.
We offer you an invitation to get to know your body and its cycles better –– an invitation to really understand what is going on inside. Learn to use your hormonal cycle to your advantage no matter your stage of life, and know that you can support and balance your hormone levels. Look for the right sources of information. Know that there is help, and know that you’re supported.


The SABI blog and articles are not meant to instruct or advise on medical or health conditions, but to inform. The information and opinions presented here do not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals for your unique situation. 


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