Why do my asthma symptoms seem to get worse during my period?

Answers from James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Just before and during your period, progesterone and estrogen levels decrease. In some women, these hormone changes may worsen asthma. The relationship between hormones and asthma is complex, varies from person to person and isn't fully understood.

Other changes in a woman's life, in addition to the menstrual cycle, can cause shifts in hormone levels that may worsen or improve asthma symptoms. These include:

  • Irregular periods. Asthma symptoms in women with irregular periods may be worse than they are in women who have regular menstrual cycles.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy may increase the risk of having a severe asthma attack. For some women, however, hormone changes during pregnancy may actually improve asthma symptoms.
  • Menopause. Dropping hormone levels associated with menopause may make asthma symptoms worse or cause some women to develop asthma.
  • Hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement with estrogen or progesterone may improve asthma symptoms in some women who have gone through menopause. However, study results are conflicting, and hormone replacement appears to increase the risk for asthma symptoms in certain women.

If you have bothersome asthma symptoms during your period, ask your doctor if any medications you may take for menstrual pain could be causing an asthma flare. Your doctor may recommend that you increase your asthma control medication or take a different medication before your period starts.

June 03, 2017